The other day I was sitting in group of people feeling in a bad mood. I was thinking about my “problems.” I looked around the room and I thought, “How come no one else in this room has the problems I have?”
Then I remembered the truth: Everyone in the room does have the same problems I have. Maybe not in the same mixture. Maybe not in the same degree. But ultimately the same.
So the suffering I felt that morning was not my suffering. It was our suffering. It was the suffering of being human.
Sometimes, when I suffer, I struggle against it. I think I will get out of the suffering if I just have more money or more sex or more sleep or more fame or more food or more something.
But the truth is, I have never found any permanent way to stop my suffering. It is true that getting those things–money, sex, sleep etc–may make life easier and maybe even make me more effective as a helper.
None of them, however, seem to actually take away my suffering. Nothing I have found does. At least not permanently.
Knowing that–that nothing stops suffering–means not having to waste one’s life trying to make something go away that cannot be made to go away.
Knowing that, you realize that the only thing to do with suffering is not to try to permanently get rid of it but to find a way to use it to help others.
Maybe that sounds counterintuitive but, actually, it seems to be the only path out.
How do you struggle? If you suffer injustice, then it helps you know how it feels for other people who suffer injustice. If you make big life mistakes, then you know how it feels for other people who make big life mistakes.
The particular way life is hard for you may give you a special set of tools to help other people who find life hard in the same way. Lonely people know what lonely people need. People scared about climate change know what people scared about climate change need.
Once your suffering becomes a tool for helping others, it is no longer really suffering. It is a gift. It is the special way that only you can help.
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