“Why do people suffer? Is it karma? What is the purpose of suffering?” people sometimes ask me. And I ask myself that too.
I never liked talking about this and I don’t feel it’s appropriate to talk to someone about their karma. In fact, I think it can be really disempowering and any spiritual teacher should be mindful of what and when certain concepts should be discussed anyway. Yes, we know it has many layers – present, past lives, ancestral, and etcetera. Yes, we know it is based on our actions, thoughts and intentions. But the truth is we are all mere mortals limited by the perception of the human mind – and none of us are completely enlightened.
It’s concerning when people go around talking about “karma”or “learning lessons” especially to someone experiencing suffering or pain in any shape or form. Throwing around words with little understanding of what they mean can be dangerous especially to those who are going through a difficult time or are more vulnerable in that moment. There are far too many youth and children today suffering the consequences of this.
And as far as I know – none of us know exactly how karma works and why so many people suffer. What is the purpose of suffering? Our knowledge is limited and we’ll never know everything.
With our self-limiting believes and perceptions conditioned to the human existence – our minds are too restricted to ever fully understand higher consciousness. I hope we never forget that because we carry a responsibility in our energy. We need to accept we just don’t know it all.
We all look for answers to “why” when something stressful happens. And it is understandable – it gives us peace. And if we can find a higher perspective and a purpose – we need to and we have to. And of course, we need to guide another to do the same in a loving non-judgmental way.
But if we can’t – we shouldn’t delve to the point of re-traumatizing ourselves. There is a danger with too much instrospection as well. Remember – life is about balance.
“The notions of heat and cold, of pain and pleasure, are born only of the contact of the senses with the objects. They had a beginning and an end. They are impermanent in nature. So bear them patiently.” ~ Bhagavad Gita 2.14
Everything we experience in this physical life is because it has touched our senses and as such it is impermanent. Happiness and distress are also felt as a result of touching our senses. And they too are impermanent; and they too will come and go. So in the words of the Gita, let it touch and then un-touch.
Easier said than done, right? When we are in it with both feet – fuck that. And that’s fine because we are human and we are here to have a human feeling experience.
But life has its own rhythm.
We long to understand it because of our need for control, so that we feel more comfortable within our existence.
We want to label and categorize because only then we’d put others and ourselves in some understandable context or “box”. This is why humanity is obsessed with categories, definitions, facts/statistics and “groups” – we are just trying to feel less afraid, more safe – by desperately trying to stay in control “knowing” things and people. We meet someone new and immediately say, “they are this or that” – because (maybe) we are just incapable of accepting the uncertainty of a multi-faceted human and the uncertainty/risk of a real connection/relationship – which means potentially pain as well.
But life just is.
Sometimes things will happen and we’ll just never know why – may be we just need to start feeling comfortable with not knowing everything; to allow it to touch and un-touch, otherwise we’ll get stuck in a very bad cycle of self-imposed suffering.
Life has its own pulse.
It inhales and exhales in its breath.
It expands and withdraws in its lungs, like the waves ebb and flow.
And in itself, each breath is needed and each aspect is purposeful.
Good and bad are only perspectives. To the fly, the spider web is bad – but to the spider, it is needed.
Do you know that eucalyptus seeds open only when the trees are burned? They need the destructive force of fire to actually be born and grow.
What is pleasure for you, may be pain for the other in the mutual exchange.
We can’t always see the long-term higher perspective of our role and contribution to a situation.
So may be just like that – there is a continual dance between the “good” and the “bad” – between dark and light – mortality and immortality – life and decay – and like yin and yang, we are reminded that both are needed to flow freely as they need. And the waning moon is always held by the waxing.
Everything in life is a relationship.
And when we accept that good and bad, and pleasure and pain are just notions of the mind, may be we’ll be less distressed when they touch our senses. May be we will allow them to touch and then un-touch and thus, free ourselves from the false psychological burdens that we carry.
To see the face of God, may be we need to accept all of life’s aspects as they wave.
It is easier to love God when all is good; easier to trust and have faith when things are good and there is no fear. May be this is why sometimes it is easier to love looking into cathedrals instead of human eyes. We are flawed. We feel pain. We are not perfect. We are messy. And it is hard to have the capacity within us to hold another’s pain.
God too has many faces. And if we only look at the Divine like a perfect cathedral or temple, or a perfect icon or painting, expecting that it is perfect as per our own perceptions, may be we are just as biased as when we look at humans expecting them to be perfect. May be God’s face too carries the aspect of sadness.
It is often said, and I believe that too – God is found not in rigid buildings or beautiful paintings, God is found in the eyes of those beside us, our loved ones and everyone.
Some waves will be strong and cold. And then another, gentle and warm will flow. And so it goes.
The humility in this deserves to be respected and treasured.
I know suffering is hard. It is scary. It makes us question life. And we get angry. And we ask, “but why?” And then suddenly it wakes us up faster than anything else – we become kinder, more grateful and tell all of our loved ones how much we love them. We reflect on how we’ve treated others. We reflect on how insignificant some things are. We start to appreciate life in its tiniest moments.
In a sense, it is precisely our acute awareness of mortality that makes us remember to live more fully.
And I too of course want to understand why sometimes things happen. But may be each time we dig in further, we are only distracting ourselves from the existence of life.
We have to become comfortable with not knowing. We have to stop defining and categorizing whether it is others, ourselves or life itself. No, not everything is a “lesson.” No, not everything is some punishment. And no – we don’t always attract our situations. We need to pull out all of our self-guilt, shame and blame, which are anchored in our throats.
Life has its own pulse. Is there a purpose? Of course. But may be it is just something beyond the understanding of our human condition; of a perception much higher than we will ever be able to fully realize in this life.
Some days are bad days and we wear sadness on our face. In the same way – life itself has different aspects of its face. And we can’t reject it just because it is having a bad day.
And we don’t need to pressure it to tell us why.
We can just accept it as is – even when it cries, it is still part of the same face that we loved yesterday.
And may be all we have to do is just hold the safe space allowing to just be.
Much Love & Peace,
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