Witnessing the pain of others
Although we hear how to deal with our own pain (physical or psychological/emotional) very seldom we hear about the suffering of witnessing the pain of others.
For instance, a loved one, a close relative could be going through excruciating physical or emotional pain: We could hear and see their discomfort, we could empathize with them, we could wish them a prompt recovery, but we could find ourselves absorbing that pain emotionally in such a way that their pain, becomes ours.
A famous case is the one experienced by Christopher Reeve, (actor who played Superman in 1978) who went through many diseases after he was paralyzed from the neck down, after falling from a horse. After his death in 2004, his wife; Dana Reeve died 18 months later from lung cancer. She wasn’t a smoker. She was 44 years old.
As cancer is known for being an emotional disease, we could observe how her husband’s experiences affected her. The symbolism for pain in the lungs is sadness.
Ahnanda is very experienced in seeing the pain of others, I used to take them with me. However, as my awareness increased; that has changed.
There are 2 things to be aware of: 1) How our emotions are affected 2) How the mind is affected through identification.
There is an emotional energy sent by someone in pain. I have been in cases where there was nothing I could do, but just observe. That frustration added further sorrow when the perception of my mind in that moment, changed: “How unfair life could be…” the mind is champion in adding useless comments. “I” identified with someone’s sorrow thus, awareness is no longer there.
It is what it is. Observe. Feel compassion, send get well wishes, but as soon as the opportunity is there to change into another activity; we need to do it, we need to smile again. This is living in the now.
The mind may bring memories. It may bring comments. Observe and let it go.
In my own experience, dancing to upbeat music, has been an incredible help to take my mind away from remembering such experiences. When the mind is distracted, enjoyment follows.
We could turn the page onto another chapter.
Life presents different experiences. If pain is not our own, why not keep our happiness?
Energetically; what it is not ours, we do not need to take with us. That is part of self-respect. To be able to save the integrity of our own self and to know when enough, is enough; that is, when we have reached a limit.
Traditional society may have a different perception on this based on ideas of “sainthood;” (suffering with others or for others) however, society is not concerned in increasing our own awareness through Life experiences.
Compassion is found in the experience of witnessing someone’s sorrow. That compassion is without “practice.” It is natural, real. Nevertheless, to remain untouched by someone’s sorrow is an art of awareness, it is the practical experience of living with no mind.
Seeing sorrow of others is unavoidable but so is our own Joy. Our quality of awareness flips the coin.
The numerous escapes from suffering
“I” don’t like suffering, but there is suffering. The mind asks: Why is there suffering? Then gurus, priests and authorities, “experts,” will come up with an “answer.”
Sometimes it is “god” looking out for you and saving you from further suffering. “He” has a plan for your life. Yes, “he” has a plan for millions of people and there is a happy end for all, just like a cheese movie. Have faith. Believe. Join the religion of “chosen ones.”
Other times “Life is suffering.” It does not matter that this phrase was ill translated. As long as the Buddha “said it,” we should feel good. After all, if the Buddha felt that, then we are along his path, we are in the same wavelength, in route for self-realization…
Other times, it could be another story and we will be ready to believe in it as long as “I” get something out of it. Heaven at the end sounds good. Salvation is always desirable. A life of everlasting bliss in the company of “God,” (the main boss out of all the little ones) will surely get us many “upgrades” from our current “normal” story.
But if someone says: There is suffering because there is happiness. That is duality 101. Then, that does not get any believers. It is too simple buy yet cloudy. There has to be much more in the story, we want some mystery followed by drama and then a happy end where “I” will be the main character, where “I” will rise victorious among all the evil doers …
Life brings happiness and because of that suffering. In the world of duality, that is expected. We don’t want suffering? Then happiness will not be there either. That world is something that we cannot understand. We haven’t experienced it.
Did I offer any “solutions” for your suffering? Any tips? Any ways to handle it? Any ideas on how to get rid of it? There are plenty of books on that. Plenty of fairy stories to make us feel “good,” for at the end “spirituality” is about handing us some tissue paper to dry up our tears, something to make us feel good, just like when Mama used to hand us a glass of milk after we fell down from roller skating. Right? We are truly looking for something to make us feel good, even if a “white lie” as we cannot handle what IS.
OBSERVE your suffering. Become fully AWARE of it. OBSERVE all the movements of the mind to try to get out of it, OBSERVE all the explanations and the ways to save face that will appear.
Physical suffering will not leave a trauma. It happens and we learn to be careful and avoid the same. However, psychological suffering will leave all sorts of trauma, all stories of the “poor I,” and how much “I” had to suffer and put up with stuff. Don’t we like stories!
There is the story of salvation, redemption, the origin of the Universe, Godly creation, etc.
Eventually a psychological trauma will need to be left behind. Otherwise, we are stuck in Life; unable to move on by continually regurgitating sad stories and increasing bitterness in our mind. That type of exercise, is definitely “bad” for our health.
Events in Life are to be experienced in the moment. It is like eating a cake. If we don’t experience its taste while we are eating it, then how can we enjoy it? Our mind wants to take the experience with us, we could take a picture, talk about how wonderful the cake is, without realizing that we are eating!
Smell it, taste it, look at it. That is the now, the moment to taste and be fully AWARE of it.
Alright, it could be a rotten cake. However, haven’t you experienced a new flavor? Isn’t that a unique flavor? That is it. Move on.
But no… we want to enhance the story. We make the trauma. How is it possible for me to eat that “garbage”? Don’t we feel insulted? Cheated?
To spice things up; every time we eat a cake, let us bring that story up. Better yet, every time we go to a restaurant. The trauma is building up, it is in crescendo…
Our capacity for suffering is the same as our capacity for happiness. Life will give us the experience that we can handle either side. Any duality is complementary of each other. The full range of one side of a duality means the experience of the full range of the other side.
In the world of duality, nothing lasts forever for there is continuity, movement. Life is change. Every moment is unique and deserves our full AWARENESS.
Isn’t that a wonderful thing?
Question: Isn’t desire the origin of suffering?
“You said that attachment is the origin of suffering. The Buddha said that the root cause of suffering is desire. That is the second “Noble Truth” in Buddhism. There is a vast difference between desire and attachment. Do you think that you have the truth and Buddha does not?”
Thank you for your question.
No. Ahnanda does not preach truth. He only shares his experiences and realizations.
Take a look at the link below:
Here is a quote from that website: The cause of suffering is: “the attachment to the desire to have (craving) and the desire not to have (aversion)”.
What happened then? Perhaps this website has the “wrong” interpretation? Millions of people believe in what you said: “Desire is the cause of suffering.” However, that belief even though held by millions is plain and simple nonsense.
This problem arises when we believe what the book says, the guru, the expert without looking at our own experience.
Buddha did not say that. It was interpreted like that.
What millions know is only the interpretation, the translation of someone who may have many degrees, who may be very proficient in many languages, but who does not have the capacity yet for inner observation. Perhaps that was a Buddhist follower, maybe not.
Through that nonsense of getting rid of desire, many “spiritual” people are denying life to their own experience through the ideal of DOING what the Buddha “said.”
Misinterpretation is the mother of all scriptures. Please quote me on that.
Perhaps if you take a test in “introduction to Buddhism” you may have to choose: “Desire is the root of all suffering” as the “right” answer. You may score 100% because of that answer, but know that your “right” answer in the “Office World,” is not so in Life.
We could have many desires. As many as we want. Suffering will kick in when we are attached to a particular desire. That means that we may need to attain/possess the object of that desire to feel fulfilled in Life.
Nevertheless, let me share a “noble truth” with you. Attachment is not the true source of suffering, but the ONE who is attached is…. Yes, the “I.”
To intellectually understand the above, is not easy. Therefore, let us stick with “attachment.” But, if “attachment” is hard to perceive, then “desire” is an easy answer. It will sell many books. 🙂
So what do we take home from all this?
Any spiritual guru or any self-realized being including the “word of God,” are by nature, limited by language. In other words, to truly understand what they are trying to convey, we need to look at those words through the mirror of our own personal experience. If it does not make sense, then that is so for us at that moment. That is OK. Move on.
If it makes sense, then do not try to “practice it.” Allow for Life to work on you and go beyond the intellectual realization, by integrating THAT as part of you. Then, you know for you ARE that. BEING is KNOWING.
But if you don’t understand and you are simply following what someone is telling you to practice, then my friend; you are not being honest with yourself, with your current state of BEING.
You may want to be like Buddha, but you ARE not there yet.
Do you think that practice will get you there?
It can only distract you from what you ARE… until you are AWARE.
Thus, “practice” is an entertainment in the meantime. Nothing wrong with that. 🙂
The duality of suffering and pleasure
In our society suffering, immolation, sacrifice, etc. have a “good” connotation. Typically, it is the “I” giving up itself for others.
Pleasure, sensuality, sexiness, etc. have a “bad” connotation. It is the “I” being ego centered, hedonistic, indulging himself rather than “helping others.”
Our morality is based on the dichotomy of those values.
Pleasure is mostly condemned and suffering exalted, considered “spiritual.”
Suffering, immolation, sacrifice are always of the “I.” It is the “I” suffering for others, to become better, to accomplish things. This could be easily labeled as Love but it is not. Giving yourself for others without the “I” in between, is indeed Love. The difference cannot be told by the media, the masses, the lawyers… Thus, behind an action there is always an intention, not known by the “others” and mostly rationalized by the “I” to fit an image of sainthood. In time, this becomes absolute hypocrisy.
Paradoxically, pleasure is fulfilling in the experience of “no-I.” If there is an “I” wanting to experience pleasure, that pleasure will be unfulfilling for the “I” cannot reach satisfaction, the ego-mind will continually disturb the experience of pleasure.
Sex is a great example to illustrate the above.
Individuals condemning pleasure in the name of morality, have already a strong conditioning against sexuality. The “I” wants to be in “control” in an experience which is meant to abandon the control of the “I.” A person is unable to be fully present, in the “now” while thinking about being in “control.” We can learn a lot about ourselves from our sexuality.
When the “I” looks for pleasure, it cannot resist the sensations but yet the experience may be unfulfilling. Thus, it becomes addictive. The mind will keep a dream of pursuing full satisfaction which cannot exist.
Thus, the avoidance or regulation of sensual pleasure is preached by many religions and societies. The “rebels” of this sort of morality act in rejection of established moral values, but they are still influenced by the morality of guilt and sin, deep inside.
Their reactionary movement lacks awareness, for with awareness there is no need to be reactionary.
Suffering is used by religions and moral laws as expiation of “sin.” The morality of guilt and shame is created through the exaltation of suffering as a means to redeem the individual from “sin.”
Suffering and pleasure are 2 ends of the same experience. The experience of one side, brings necessarily the other. Therefore, moral values rejecting one side to promote the other are unrealistic, utopic.
Our conditioning is to reject one side of a duality. At this time, that teaching/belief is outdated and detrimental. Integration of all energies, is very important at this time. Here is where the balancing act resides, where harmony in the self means harmony with the world, the Totality.
Suffering and pleasure are part of living Life at this time.Embrace them. They are not meant to be a traumatic experience unless we make it that way; but only a particular and passing experience of the vast range of experiences in Life. It is the dolphin swimming in the ocean: Now you see it, a minute later you will not… yet the Ocean remains with Life. 🙂
Labeling the Journey
“Since Life presents many perspectives which are labeled by humans according to their conditioning, what is the point of a spiritual path?”
To be ONE with Life. However, that cliche answer is not truly what it is.
“Then… what is, what is?” 🙂
We are already ONE, but we are not aware of it.
To “gain” that awareness, there have been 2 apparently contradictory paths. One is the path of Yoga (Union) the other, is the path of Tantra (Openness/Expansion.)
Observe that in Life, paradoxically openness and union are the same exact thing.
The question is: Who opens and who is in union?
Thus, the “I” is the main thing, the link between those 2 apparently contradictory paths. That is why all paths return to the “I.”
In Yoga, the “I” is the last thing for someone to become fully aware of. It is the path of resistance, struggle, suffering of the “I” to become something else, greater, improved, magnificent. I am not referring here about memorizing the definitions of Patanjali about yoga or the practice of pretty asanas like in the “yoga” studio near you.
Yoga is the will power to be someone else and the struggle to make it happen through controlling the mind.
In Tantra, the “I” is the first thing to become aware of, by going into the beliefs systems, taboos, hang ups, ideals, moralities… all of that which makes up the “I.” It is the path of pleasure, enjoyment, openness, by being “nothing,” that is being away from the mind. Thus, emphasis on unlearning, leveling the mind, regaining innocence of a child and not trying to be someone… such as “equal to God.” Taoism is closest to Tantra than any other path. However; to understand it we need to live it, experience it and put all books aside.
I can put this writing together about yoga and tantra into 2 pages long, because it is my Life experience. It does not come from a book. Although many salesman are putting together their own versions of yoga/tantra, know that in “reality” those labels only describe a Life experience and every salesman, only puts their own flavor in it. Their “creation” is ready to be sold with the “right” package. Happily, purchased by the masses who are looking to solve their problems by taking that “magic” pill. Let me share with you something that I have found true in my journey: Every book/writing which has been of any help in my journey, has always been free of charge, easy to download. No salesman involved.
Yoga and Tantra are 2 ends of the same continuity. When the “I” becomes someone equal to “God,” then to be in union with Life, that “someone” will need to go away. But that is at the end of the “yoga” journey.
In Tantra, that “union” preached by Yoga, arrives when the “I” opens up to Life. Open, open, expand, until the “I” is no longer there…
In your Life at this time, you may be living your interpretation, your creation, of one of those 2 paths. However, a fruit matures at the end of the journey. Thus, in spirituality, in Life the journey is to go through both paths without choosing, without making a brainy “selection” coming from the “I.” Life will give the opportunity when the “aspirant” is ready.
I realize that “yoga” has a name recognition. A “good” name. Easy to follow. Easy to understand. Tantra instead, has a “bad reputation.”
To go into the path of pleasure, before having experienced fully the suffering of the “I,” means to find suffering in pleasure. Nevertheless, as we know; all experiences are “good.” They are part of the journey.
“How do you label your own journey then?”
In this life I could call it: From yoga to tantra. The offspring of that marriage is Ahnanda.
Both, yoga and tantra; are paths of self-discovery. Life may give someone a book, another a guru, yet to another a spirit-guide, etc. The means are different, but the end is the same: Self-discovery. To be one with Life.
What do you tell someone who is suffering emotional pain?
Someone may be pleading for a way out of her insurmountable pain.
Pain has the characteristic of making someone focus, concentrate, or unwillingly give its full attention to suffering.
As pain increases, so is the strong desire to be spared of pain.
For most, that is the first episode in their lives; when vulnerability is felt. The “I” is incapable of escaping at will. There could be amelioration of physical pain through medicine, but emotional pain can only be postponed: We could become drunk to numb ourselves; but that pain will return; the complications will increase and hope of being “better” as time passes by, could be the only comfort at sight.
Yes, everything passes by. As it came, it will go away.
Have you ever experienced a broken relationship?
The death of a loving relative?
A deep disappointment in Life?
The pounding feeling, the relentless revival of the experience, the endless taste of guilt mixed with despair, anguish…
All of that will pass. It will go away.
The size of your “I” will decide how long that experience stays.
Many times, we make yet another trauma of those painful experiences, but I assure you; those are not there to feed the “Poor I, Poor me,” pose, which only adds ego.
Those are there, to show you what your “I” is made of. Be aware of that, for nothing else will be able to make you aware of what you are made of.
See it. Acknowledge it. Accept it.
Instead, we defend “ourselves,” we create a story where “I” need to save face despite what Life is showing me.
The “I” don’t want to see that, arrives… but in time it will open her eyes.
Life experiences are able to change someone. Nothing else will do.
When suffering is there, you may wish that you did not exist, just so the “I” could run away from the pain.
Many times we have been able to do that, but there are other times; when it is impossible.
Want to try suicide, perhaps?
That only postpones and amplifies the experience of pain. As long as the “I” escapes, there cannot be change, and Life… is change.
It is in that impossibility where the “I” will die, to be someone else.
Newness comes after death of the “I.” It has always been like that. 🙂
Question: Are desires the root cause of suffering?
…When I started exploring spiritual knowledge, I came across this point that “desires are the root cause of suffering”. I have contemplated a bit on it. And I do agree that lesser the desires, lesser will be your suffering. But you know they say that final aim of a person who wants to be fully enlightened, you have to become “Unknown to desire”, now how is that possible. Desire of getting rid of desires is also a desire. Desire to achieve enlightenment is also a desire. Becoming a deity… making God as your companion, getting Jevan Mukti, getting moksha, all these are desires. So, can we really become “Unknown to desires”. Icha matram avidya, that’s what they call it.
And most important, is it possible to become desire-less human being by living in sansarik (being married and with family) world??
Now even if you attain this stage, “I want food at least one time in a day” is also a desire. I know I am bit confused about this. Please explore and elaborate on this.
Very good question for the common good!
Just observe what happens in you, become aware of that. Let yourself be the one who experiences those words.
You have a desire. Nothing wrong with that. You want to be happy. That is a desire.
You are currently not happy, because you think that happiness is some “state” that you need to achieve, some state that others have achieved and you want that for you…
Some will create a method to reach that “happiness.” Buy a big house, get a significant one, become famous, do yoga, meditate for 10 hours a day, repeat a mantra, get a Guru, etc. You follow the method, you obtain what the method says… but you are not satisfied… you have more desires.
Why are you still having desires? Because “you” haven’t achieved that “happiness.”
The “I” wants fulfillment but “can’t get no satisfaction” 🙂
The issue is not the desire. The issue is the “I” who cannot be satisfied. You could have one desire or many desires, one thing is sure; the “I” will not be satisfied once that desire is fulfilled as a “reality.”
Do you see that?
Do you want to be “illuminated”? Do you want Moksha? Do you want God? Do you want to accomplish all of those “spiritual” words?
That is the desire. The good news is that you may achieve those words at anytime. However, as long as there is an “I,” there will be no satisfaction.
Then suffering sets in. It wasn’t because of the desire; but because the “I” cannot get satisfaction.
Then, you realize: “Ah! The problem is the “I.” Let me get rid of that.”
But the “I” cannot get rid of himself.
However, there is suffering! It is that suffering and nothing else the one burning that “I.”
Therefore, when you say: “Desires are the root cause of suffering,” then I understand that desires are a very good thing for those who would like to reduce the size of their ego, their “I-ness,” but a “bad” thing for those who want to keep their ego intact or make it bigger… then for those; to get rid of desires or anything else except the “I,” is the medicine…
If you are trying to be desire-less by getting rid of desires, by repressing them and rejecting them; you will learn that your “I” will become stronger, big… your ego will blossom without a doubt. Thus, try to get rid of your desires. Invent any method. It doesn’t matter. Follow any method… It does not matter.
The important aspect is to get your ego big enough, so it is ready to burst out through suffering… then at that point and not before, you will start the journey of dissolving the ego.
When there is no ego, no “I,” then there are no desires, for who is going to have a desire? Although, there maybe desires…they are not as you used to know them. It is not that the desires have changed, but “you” have changed… there is “no –I.”
There, you could be married and have 50 children, a dog, a cat and a parrot and… there will be no ”I” to fight against the “I” of your wife, your children and your parrot.
How do we want to call that state of “no-I”?
Let me throw some neat words at you: Happiness, Paradise, Moksha, Jeevan Mukti, no-desire, Being one with God… but here is my favorite: Empty.
Your baggage is gone and so “your” desires.
All the best to you!