Suffering

“When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions” – Hamlet, Act IV Shakespeare

“There is suffering in life. This is the First Noble Truth,” according to Buddhist practices. This truth makes a good point! Suffering comes. Sometimes we cause our suffering. Sometimes we do not. We don’t always have to ask “Am I doing life wrong?” when we are suffering.

But life is not just about suffering. There is pleasure and pain, praise and blame, joy and sorrow. There is also the opposite of suffering: beauty. Beauty comes too. That beauty exists at all is a mystery. It’s the focus of a great deal of work by artist Makoto Fujimura, pediatric palliative care doctor Ray Barfield and the late Irish poet John O’Donohue. Both suffering and beauty are mysteries. They both do their work in their own seasons.

If you are in a season of suffering, I hope the words of the poets can touch a bit of your pain. May they give you space for your head and heart to clear a bit.

Poems

Resources

All humans face overwhelming situations at times. And all suffer. Suffering can transform us: it may make us more bitter. It may refine us and help us eventually become lighter and more joy-filled.

Some grief is sticky. If you return to the grief time and time again, consider something deeper may be happening in your life. You may wish to shift your relationship to that pain. Time does not heal all wounds, in fact, some wounds are like splinters in our souls – if they remain there they get infected and start causing our entire body to become infected.

In life we need a tool kit for “overwhelming experiences.” Some of these tools will work every time. Some will just work one time. Some may work for you but not for me. (That’s why we need a kit!) Here are some of my favorite tools:


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