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Sunday, September 8, 2013


The spiritual journey doesn't magically free you from suffering.  It doesn't liberate you from struggling.  You could be one of those who choose to put all their energy into transcending suffering, cultivating detachment and freedom from the complications of human existence.  But it still doesn't free you from yourself.

Even if you step away from the kind of entanglements with others that seem to obviously lead to suffering, you still have yourself to contend with at the end of the day.  You still have to wrestle with who you are and what you're about, and those answers aren't always easy or obvious or pain-free.

Sometimes the best the spiritual journey offers is the courage to honestly face yourself and accept what you encounter with as much grace as you can muster.  We have deficits, each one of us, parts of ourselves that are undernourished, underdeveloped, neglected and ignored, and we suffer ourselves, and inflict suffering on others, in so many way, large and small, because of it.  

Even when we have a clear sense of ourselves at our best, our ability to honor that best self in thoughts, words, actions and relationships, especially when circumstances are difficult, can be almost impossibly disappointing.  Disappointment that the potential that exists in ourselves and those we love can so often be betrayed by the most ordinary, mundane failings.

Anyone who tells you that suffering is illusion, that it is not real, is ignoring the reality of their own experience. There is nothing so tangibly real, nothing that roots you so completely in your own humanity, your own frailty and weakness, as suffering.  There is nothing that binds you so tightly to your humanity and nothing that can isolate you so fully as suffering.  

It is not the whole picture, but when the suffering is yours, it fills up reality with its vast presence, defining everything else in relationship to it.  And you don't walk away from it by dismissing it with spiritual philosophy.  You have to go through it.  You have to walk through the middle of it and come to terms with it and accept that suffering is part of your humanity, not the obstacle to your humanity. 

No reason that suffering has to be permanent, but it carves space into our hearts and minds and lives and demands attention, and we ignore it at our own peril.

Accept what is in front of you.  Don't embrace or hold on to it longer than necessary, but accept what is there, ask it why it has come, what it has brought, and what is now required of you.

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