Suffering, Trauma, and Reverence

Sadness, suffering, pain, and distress. All of us have our experience of pain and suffering. Hurt and loneliness. Physical, mental, emotional abuse and spiritual abuse. Cultural abuse.

We have our personal experiences. They are very personal to us. Specially when we are young it is all very personal to us. Even as young adults and even as grown ups we might have distressing, upsetting and traumatic, sometimes extremely traumatic personal experiences. Sometimes events intrude on us and are wall collapses. That is the personal domain. Our direct personal experience. It’s not a concept, not a abstraction, not a fault. It is what we experience. We may even feel the experience. We have to be careful because there are many of us that are so traumatized that we may not feel the experience. Our healing requires that we feel our experience. We must feel it to heal. We must feel it in all its horror and pain. That is personal. That experience of healing doesn’t happen over night as you know. It could take decades. Then there maybe additional painful experiences so we could spend all or part of our lives healing our own hurt and for some of us it is our life, it is a life of healing where or life is devoted to healing ourselves. For some of us, we never heal. We become so identified with the suffering that we hang on to it and never heal.

Then there is a different realm a different domain, the suffering of those who are not us. The suffering of the outer, the suffering that is not personal. The trauma that is not personal. The trauma that makes up most of our species. It has become the common place on our planet. Pain, suffering, trauma, death, that is what most of our planet experiences.

We have to be careful to remember that these are two, however related, but still separate domains. If we confuse our own personal suffering with that what is not ours personally, we will get very lost in pain and god knows what else. We have to distinguish the two. Once we distinguish our own personal suffering from that which is not personal, we can look at issues of responsibility and accountability. What are we responsible for and what are we accountable for in our personal life and our larger life. These are separate but related issues.

None of this is intellectual or conceptual. It is a somatic approach, simply experiencing your own pain and suffering and loss. As you experience it, a sadness developed, a great sorrow called grief. The grief is a burden that most think will crush or destroy them. By taking it on in small amounts, you can experience it. You can experience your own suffering without looking at what responsibility you have or what you have caused. You just experience your own suffering that is personal to you. By taking on the burden of your own pain, putting it aside when it is to much and then coming back to it, you discover there is a skill set that you learn. Grieving is a set of skills. Grieving is a set of experiences that are paradoxically strengthening and paradoxically the great cleansing to your heart. Through this process, when you are no longer grieving, your heart is unburdened, cleansed, and cleared. In this cleared heartfelt space you will see questions of your own responsibility or accountability, what you caused and created, what you were complicit with or acquiesced to or co-conspired with. All these questions will disappear. You are left with a clear heart. Your heart is not heavy. A heart that is very concerned with the suffering of other people. It is not your suffering and it is not confused in you. Someone else’s suffering is not your suffering. When you experience their suffering, paradoxically it remains their suffering. It doesn’t evoke any personal suffering because it is healed. At this point you can experience real compassion and really care as deeply as possible, unattached. you are clear enough to be aware of it, to care and in a place to actual be responsive to it… it is one heart caring about others.

The others suffering at times can then feel crushing but all that has to be done is respond by grieving, to feel how awful it is. But by now you have developed the skills. This grieving is clear that it is not your suffering and you are not identified with it, you care but not attached. By being clear you are not attached to others suffering, it doesn’t energize you, it doesn’t interest you, you don’t feed on it, you will be horrified that there is so much suffering. But it is not your suffering.

Today, there is a mass culture that feeds on it and finds it entertaining. Look at the tv and the movies.

It is very important to be willing to grieve our own suffering, to grieve the suffering of others, not be afraid to grieve, and to learn the technology of grieving. It is a skill set.

When you approach the suffering of others, you learn that you have to have strength to simply recognize and except the suffering. It is what it is. Not turning it into a concept or a conversation, it is just painful. All you have to do is reflect back that they are seen. That you are aware of their suffering. This is the crucial response. If the recognition of others suffering is in loving and kind recognition, this is healing. If you are stuck in the horror, the fascination, you cannot mirror it back in a kind or loving way.

Recognition, acceptance, acknowledge… in love… another’s pain without trying to minimize it, glorify it, or to interpret it…. just accepting it, this is healing. When someone is truly seen is true healing.

It is the origin of your own personal suffering and the suffering of our planet.

To be truly seen is to approach all life with reverence. This is reverence.


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