Suffering At Our Own Hands

When we feel that we have been mistreated - either by another person or by the mysterious workings of the Universe - we tend to take refuge in self-pity.  The irony of this is that self-pity, and any other device that ego uses to focus attention on itself, is no refuge, but rather a way of perpetuating the pain inflicted upon us, that left alone would quickly dissipate.

How much suffering we inflict upon ourselves! This is well illustrated, albeit in a different context, by the Zen story "Two Monks and a Woman" that is told and discussed at this link. When someone mistreats us, the greatest suffering we experience is not the direct result of the mistreatment, but the result of the way we react to it. The event and the pain inflicted from outside pass in an instant; any pain that is felt thereafter comes from inside. This is the most important teaching I can ever give about suffering, and I urge you to mindfully apply it to your own experience until it becomes an integral part of your consciousness. This is the foundation of another important teaching: that while we cannot control what happens to us, we can control the ways in which those events affect us and are absorbed or reflected.

Emotional pain is the hardest to deal with. Our selfish pride is bruised by the feeling of being disrespected. This kind of pride is just another word for insecurity. Ego does not believe that it is worthy of respect and fears that others will feel the same. So ego broods on every slight as well as every mistake, including the hurts we inflict upon others. I know this, because it has been my pattern. Physical pain is also often translated into emotional pain, when we misguidedly wander down the blind alley of "Why has God done this to me?" (For more on that topic see this blog entry).

Love, in particular self-love, is the way out of this trap. The path to Love begins with forgiveness. The hardest person to forgive is yourself. I have no magic key to this, but I believe that meditation and affirmations can help. One of the first affirmations I created for myself was "I am God's perfect child." There are many others; such as "Each of us is always doing the best we can." I think this last is hard to swallow, particularly when you consider that so much action is impulsive and ego-based; but if you take "best we can" to mean "best we can do given our humanity", it makes sense. In order to forgive ourselves, we must acknowledge our human weaknesses, and learn to distinguish in our self-awareness between our humanity and our innate divinity. Only when we are able to reconcile our limited human selves with our unlimited potential in Spirit can we reach out unselfishly to forgive others, and to help them learn to forgive themselves in turn.

The forgiveness I am talking about comes after long practice and meditation. But once it does come, there should no longer be long periods of suffering between the hurt and the release. Forgiveness should be our immediate and only reaction to any painful stimulus. It must be the face of Love that we present to the rough and tumble of everyday existence.

Eventually, Love leads to Oneness; and the knowledge that individuality is an illusion, and that the essence of each person is an indivisible part of Oneness in Spirit. In Oneness, there is no sin, no wrong, and no need of forgiveness. There is only Love.

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I was recently reminded of this 10-year old post on forgiveness: Judging


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