In life there are no guarantees. We win some we lose some. Inevitably, we find ourselves in small but significant ways, suffering in our lives. It’s what connects all humans together in this thing we call life. Pain x Resistance = Suffering. Chris Germer, author of Mindful Path to Self Compassion describes suffering as the “mental anguish caused by fighting against the fact that life is sometimes painful.”
Every day we have the little dissatisfactions that we carry with us as they accumulate like a cloud pressuring with rain before the storm. If we are living normal-ish lives, we may not always consider our suffering ‘suffering’. When we are unable to acknowledge our suffering, no matter how small, we can affect our happiness and those around us unintentionally.
As we carry the weight of our concerns we can become comfortable with the level of unease within ourselves and reacquainted with this denseness of it all. Whether we are at work and a colleague quips a sarcastic comment you way, it seems to penetrate right to the heart of you as you feel yet another sting of your tenderized and heavy heart.
There’s a Buddhist tale of two monks who are on a pilgrimage to a great teacher. On their journey they encountered a river and met a young woman who was afraid to cross due to strong currents. She asked the monks to carry her to the other side and one monk responded with disgust the other without hesitation carried her safely across.
As the two monks continued on their journey, the disgusted monk snapped: “Brother, we are taught to avoid contact with women as part of our vow and you not only made contact, you carried that woman!”
The other monk smiled warmly and kindly replied: “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river; you are the one still carrying her.”
Our strategy for coping with life’s inevitable troubles are outdated, no longer serving the purpose it intends as the fallout from failed attempts to change things sits on top of your motivation like a stink pile of disappointment as your load gets overwhelming. Your breakdowns may result in ruminations of overindulging or under-indulging or even punishing behaviours. When you are depressed or stressed you find ways of distracting, avoiding, eating, projecting, displacing and all out denial of how deeply you are actually affected as you stiffen up your lip and bash yourself for being weak and unwilling to really be happy.
There are others of us who may feel undeserving of feeling happy, loved; Others feel that they are there to provide this for others, unconditionally and the challenge is not to worry so much… So you worry that you’re worried and now the drain of caring for the people you love leaves you feeling ashamed and more undeserving.
Suffering. We all suffer. We all wish not to suffer.
Learning a different way to approach life’s suffering is about being gentle, kind and understanding with yourself for having suffering. Self compassion is the quality of awareness you bring to the intention to sooth yourself because you are suffering.
An easy way to understand compassion and the action of kindness it is sometimes helpful to consider a beloved pet or a person whom you have warm regard for, like a best friend. Imagine if they were suffering and how you may feel and what you may like to share with them that would bring them some comfort of being understood.
Here’s a self compassion practice – called “Self Compassion Break”
Put your hand(s) on your heart or hug yourself
Breathe deeply in and out
Speak kindly to yourself, with sincere intention of the words:
This is a moment of difficulty
Difficulties are a part of everybody’s life
May I respond with kindness
When you first begin you may find it uncomfortable to respond to your suffering with kindness… That’s okay. Compassion is a training. Compassion practice is cultivating resources that you can use in your time of difficulty. This ability to respond to your pain and suffering with kindness means you can move with more ease, lighter, like a feather on the breeze.
Author: Brenda Bentley, Mindfulness & Compassion Teacher
We Carry Our Stories, By Alexa Torontow
We carry our stories like the clouds hold the rain.
Slowly collecting, moment by moment.
Woven into every layer and every cell.
As time passes
the pain, the trauma, the hurt and the joy
So subtlety. So quietly.
It fills and fills, until the perfectly imperfect moment of ripeness.
Pregnant with potential to over flow.
Expanding, filling, collecting
until it peaks.
The rain pours and the tears fall.
Freely, uncontrollably and necessarily.
Cyclically washing away what was.
Clearing for what is.
As we sweetly become more aware of this invisible process,
occurring within us and around us,
we may adjust what we decide to hold onto and for how long.
We may allow it to fall away
as sweetly as the clouds release the rain.
For we can’t stop the cycle,
yet we can refine how we maneuver among it.
Tuning into what has been woven
and what we are weaving
in each and every moment.