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In the most recent Energy Alert from Karen Bishop, "Surviving the Storm" -- Feb. 23, 2008, she invokes the issue of suffering. Like most of her alerts, the issue felt very timely. I know I'm feeling depleted, exhausted, frustrated, and beset by a sadness and anger that, like so many of the collective experiences that Bishop explains so well, has no nameable source. In the alert she gives her explanation of the higher purpose of suffering.
Suffering is occurring to support individuals into making a change. When we are extremely miserable, we are more inclined to be open to doing things differently, or perhaps inclined to let go of internal patterns that have continued to cause us misery for a very long time. And as most of us know, we are the ones who cause ourselves misery, and in this way, we are then empowered to make change, as changing ourselves is what creates the change on the outside as well, and then the ball is in our own court.
It can be difficult and very challenging to watch all this suffering around us. Our hearts go out to those involved. We deeply care. It can at times seem as though the world has gone mad. But we must also remember that each and every one of us is on our own unique journey, and our journeys are what create the needed changes.
In one of those delightful, little synchronicities of which life is so full, I stumbled on some very useful material, while assembling YouTube videos for my bookstore players. In these segments Pema Chodron explains the practice of tonglen; the use of suffering as a means to awakening.
In this video, from an appearance at The Omega Institute, Chodron offers a tonglen meditation on suffering in a time of war.