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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Change is Hard Work, but So Is Suffering

Fear, shame and guilt are the Three Musketeers of negative emotion, traveling together, bound up in each other, each one building off of and tied into the others.  Where there is one, inevitably another follows.

And the result internally is suffering.  It can be suffering in the obvious form of fear, shame and guilt, but so often these feelings are cloaked inside something else.  They are cloaked inside doubt, insecurity, anger, irritation, judgement, coldness, emotional over-reacting - all the ways we disappear inside ourselves, and separate ourselves from whatever or whoever might be triggering the fear or shame or guilt.

We have so many ways to protect ourselves, to buffer ourselves from this pain, but this appearance of protection is only an appearance.  If the seed of suffering has taken root within the soul, and you tear off the leaves or the fruit, or even try to rip it from the ground, but the roots are still firmly planted, then the suffering continues.

Any gardener knows that to fully extract weeds, roots and all, the soil itself must be softened first.  And it's the same with us.  When our hearts have become bitter and dry, the deep roots of fear, shame and guilt cannot be eradicated through sheer will, no matter how forcefully we work to remove them.

We have to soften our hearts first, to acknowledge and accept that there is internal suffering, and that we want the suffering to end.  And we have to mean that, to be truly willing to release it, to give up defining ourselves by this suffering and our relationship to it. and our relationship to others through it.  It means letting go of bitterness and resentment and taking full ownership of our thoughts and feelings.

If you hold onto all the things that others have done and said to upset you or cause your suffering, you'll certainly feel justified in suffering, but YOU will still be suffering.  If you can approach your own suffering, your own limitations, with even some of the compassion you would have for a loved one in the same situation, then there's real hope for change.

Because compassion begins to soften and melt the heart, and that lets the roots of fear, shame and guilt slip through the soil of the soul and be removed completely.  Because compassion is the beginning of healing, and the beginning of replacing suffering with love.

It takes time.  It takes effort.  It takes focus and determination.  It takes forming and reinforcing new habits around new thoughts and feelings.  It's hard work, and takes effort, sometimes second-by-second, to actually change.  It's hard work, but then again, so is suffering.

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