26 May 2012

Is there value in suffering?

I think that there is one aspect to our experience of suffering that is of vital importance. When you are aware of your pain and suffering, it helps you to develop your capacity for empathy, that capacity which allows you to relate to other people’s feelings and suffering. This enhances your capacity for compassion towards others. So as an air in healing us connect with others, it can be seen as having value.” HH Dalai Lama

I’m still chewing on “The Art of Happiness” and this morning I was reading a section about suffering, and the value we can find in it. It sounds like a wild concept. WHAT value is to be found in suffering? My Sister sent me a quote a few weeks ago that stated “To feel pain is human but to suffer is a choice” and it really hit me. I define suffering as holding on to pain, not allowing it to move through and from you. But like everyone else it’s hard to let pain go, we personalize it. Sometimes it’s even enticing to hold on to it, we start to enjoy being the victim or some don’t know how NOT to be a victim because of life experiences. But like everyone I’ve suffered.

But what do we do with it? I’m learning every day how to let go, but more so in “The Art of Happiness” it was talking about having suffered. The lingering that exists, the letting go to what I’ve held on to sometimes for years.

Reading these words I instantly had a flash of being back in the barn and reading “The Message” it was talking more of personal freedom, stripping the layers that are holding us back from ourselves and our present life. The author quotes my girl, Janis Joplin, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose” and it clicked. I was back in Ecuador and all those feelings of pain, hurt, depression, loneliness, SUFFERING were there choking me. I could see the way out but I didn’t have the energy or want the energy to actually do anything. I cried. I cried and I cried for all those who did me wrong. For the lack of site development, for placing me with an inappropriate supervisor, for making me live with a family that didn’t care enough, for the heat and bugs, for the lack of structure, for it not being fun everyday…the list grew everyday (I’m very creative!). I put on this outfit of being a victim and in a weird way it was a reassurance that I didn’t have to put myself out there, be vulnerable, or even fail because THEY already did. With lots of love and grace I jumped – to a new site and a new environment. It wasn’t easy. I actually found all of the same frustrating suffering inducing elements in my new site but something changed. I made a choice. I was pushed to the edge. During a late night sob call to my Mom she simply said “If you want to come home then come home and if not then change your mind” so simple. Change your mind. So I did. Little by little, finding things to cherish, looking forward to things, and I found a loving Ecua-Mom that mentally and emotionally picked me up and loved me rejuvenating my spirit. Collecting this energy I started giving a little out and receiving more and more. I left Ecuador in love with a beautiful country, people, and culture. But after going back to the states all those past feelings of suffering and pain where still there, lingering. I really didn’t know what to do with them. I tried to readjust and feel like “normal me” but I couldn’t. I was holding these toxins in my body and they just kept building up waiting me to acknowledge them and let them go. It took me a year and a half to realize this.

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”

It clicked. I understood my suffering. I actually wouldn’t even consider it suffering. It was at the time but in retrospect it was really my freedom, my emancipation. All that I was living was stripping me of my comforts – the space that was filing me up – for no reason. The suffering allowed me to break free from all the “things” I held on to. It left we bruise, tatter, tired, and with NOTHING left to lose. With that I jumped and found so much love and newness to life, FREEDOM.

Freedom to challenge myself to eat healthier and more locally.
Freedom to take that metal smith class I’d be dreaming about for years.
Freedom to attend the Birth doula training.
Freedom to connect with the beautiful women of Sea Mar (where I worked before coming to Malawi).
Freedom to say YES to Malawi even when the time wasn’t “right”.
Freedom to love myself, my family, and my friends with more authentically.
Freedom to accept myself for who I am.


mo said...

This really connected with me Alicia, thanks for sharing some great reflections on hard feelings.

alicia said...

I'm glad you were able to connect with the sentiments! hope you are well.