Sunday, September 4, 2011

Are you Suffering

I read an interesting guest post in one of my favorite blogs,  Goodlife Zen.  “Seven ways to discover the positive side of suffering” was written by Elana Miller.  In the article she discusses how to spin straw into gold … taking painful experiences and turning them into valuable lessons.  Knowing that I need more gold (especially with the price of gold these days), I wanted to know more.

suffering In her article she discusses seven ways to change your perception of a bad experience.  Ms. Miller has some interesting insights into how to accomplish this.  In this article I am using some of her “ways” and adding my own spin to it because of my experiences of having to live with Kennedy’s Disease.
1. Use the bad to appreciate the good
“… difficult times create a greater appreciation of the good times.”

In several articles I have mentioned that we need to look for the blessings in our life.  These blessings include family and friends.  By focusing on all the positive in your life, it is more difficult to dwell on the negative issue(s) that surfaced.

I know, it sounds so easy, but boy is it hard.  However, once we recognize and focus on the love of our family and friends it is much easier to begin to live again.  Think about the laugh or giggle of a child or grandchild.  Isn’t it liberating?  There is freedom in seeing the good (the love and support) that surrounds us.
2. See your suffering as an opportunity to grow
“When life is easy, we aren’t challenged to practice skills such as wisdom, patience and compassion. … When you’re suffering, take the opportunity to practice skills like kindness, generosity, equanimity, or any other positive trait you want to develop.”

This is similar to #1, but it is more internally focused.  What can I do to improve my attitude?  This question helps refocus your thoughts from the ‘why me’ and redirects them towards what can I learn about myself from this experience and how can I improve.
3. Let suffering open your heart
“When we suffer, it teaches us to feel compassion and empathy for others who are suffering, …  Suffering is universal. We all have lost loved ones, had relationships end, had financial stresses, and felt self-doubt.”

Knowing that what you are going through is happening to many others can provide a bridge to redirect your energies to helping those who are also suffering.  We can be more supportive to others because of what we are experiencing.
6. Strengthen your relationships with the people around you
“When times are bad is when we most need our family and friends. It can be tempting to curl up in a ball and distance yourself from others out of shame or fear, but your loved ones are there to help you. Suffering can actually help forge and strengthen your most precious relationships by forcing you to reach out and ask for help.

Our own vulnerability helps us connect with others on a deep and meaningful level. So don’t be afraid to share your difficulties with your biggest supporters so they can help lessen the burden.”

I believe it is natural to want to hide your fears and concerns when something terrible happens (i.e. diagnosed with Kennedy’s Disease).  Often we say tell ourselves that we are just trying to protect those that we love.  However, that is when we need our family and friends the most.  These people are the strongest and most understanding support group we could ever want.  They are there for us.  They want to help.  All we have to do is just be receptive … and honest.
7. Transform your relationship with suffering
“In Eastern philosophy there is a distinction between pain and suffering. While pain is an inevitable part of life, suffering is our response to that pain. All the difficulty we add to our pain is our responsibility.
In other words, pain is what you need to accept, while suffering is what you need to work to change. You can’t eliminate pain, but you can work to end suffering.”

#7 is the heart of the matter.  It is all about acceptance (yes that wonderful word that I continually write about).

Suffering is not a necessary part of the acceptance process.freedom-uplifting   However, it goes to the heart of the ‘why me’ syndrome.  We need to recognize that we allow ourselves to suffer.  True freedom comes when we recognize that it is not mandatory that we suffer just because something terrible happened in our life.
‘The only handicap in life is a bad attitude.’

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