All life is suffering. Now what?

Joey Garcia

I hate when people ask, “How are you?” I want to cry or scream, “Screwed!” because my life has been nothing but pain. I have tried psychotherapy, self-help books, Reiki, herbs, homeopathy, psychics, astrologers and a lot of other healers. Nothing works. Please help me.

Contemplate the insights of Hasidic Master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov: “When asked how things are, don’t whine and grumble about your hardships. If you answer, ‘Lousy,’ then God says, ‘You call this bad? I’ll show you what bad really is!’ When asked how things are and, despite hardship or suffering, you answer, ‘Good,’ then God says, ‘You call this good? I’ll show you what good really is!”

Without a personal relationship with the Divine, it would be easy to misinterpret the first part of Nachman’s advice. From that skewed perspective, God is nothing more than a parent who threatens a child with “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!” The second portion of the advice could also be seen as encouragement for lying about one’s true feelings or experiences in an attempt to appear “all light.” But if you have committed to an intimate relationship with God, you understand differently. Suffering must be welcomed when it appears because it is a guide into our authentic self and a warrior capable of tossing off layers of our unconscious.

When you live only in the present moment, you can greet suffering with, “Oh good! Now this!” Of course, we usually bundle emotional pain with fear about the future (How long will this last?) or the past (I can’t go through this again!). As a result, we generally stop ourselves from really walking through suffering to gestation and then on to the birth of our new self. When we attempt to stave off suffering, it just takes up residency because it has a mission to teach us and it is programmed to complete that mission at all costs.

Remember that your choices contributed to placing you where you are. That also means you have the power to change your life. Self-realization means we are whole because we have accepted the problematic parts of our personality and integrated them into our conscious awareness, not because we have transcended them. No one does that except as sleight of hand. By admitting our darkness to ourselves and others, we reduce our tendency to live out of it.

Facing crisis with an embracing, “Oh good! Now this!” changes us in the way that most people hope to change. We drop the guise of victim. Doing this also requires solitude for self-reflection and people trained to tell you the truth regardless of how slippery your lies may become about yourself. Try surrounding yourself with such people. You might also make a mantra of this: “All life includes struggle. I have the strength, creativity and wisdom to greet it joyfully.”

For ethical and religious reasons, I am suspicious of cloning animals. What do you think?

To me, the lamb is a symbol of Christianity. So when Dolly the cloned sheep arrived, I thought about how far Christian religions sometimes project themselves from the message of Jesus, its original role model. I then examined whether I was living up to my own ideals. If I clean myself up, I imagine that the church is transformed and so is science. But it’s just an experiment. I could be wrong.

Meditation of the week
The gift of the spiritual path is “to reveal simplicity and hold to the uncarved block,” wrote Lao Tzu. In Taoist philosophy, transformation is the elimination of ego consciousness and the return to one’s original self: humble, spontaneous, unassuming and close to nature. Is there room for the uncarved block in your life?

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