Suffering is typically indicative of two things: the presence of the ego, and an opportunity for spiritual growth. The ego presence in suffering occurs through the denial of what is and a desire for something else.
To put this another way, suffering occurs when the ego is in resistance to what the life experience presently is by wanting the life experience to be something different. I don’t want to be sick, I want to be well. I don’t want to be poor, I want to be financially comfortable. I don’t want to be alone, I want to have an intimate partner.
It’s important to mention that the ego role in suffering only occurs when there is ego attachment — that is, when the ego is considered to be indistinct from the self. When the ego is seen as apart from or different from the self, any output from the ego is much less bothersome. In these cases the ego can be observed in a detached fashion — something that dilutes the presence of the ego considerably — similar to observing fish in an aquarium.
Resistance to life as it is always leads to suffering. Some would claim, however, that resistance to life as it is represents an ambition to make life better. My response? Accepting life as it is does not mean that life will never change: it simply means accepting life as it is right now. The future is a different entity altogether.
But when life is accepted as it is, an interesting byproduct often occurs: a better life experience in the future. Why? Instead of resisting the life experience you’re cooperating with it, and the life experience cooperates with you in return. A dance of mutual consideration and regard begins.
The opportunity for spiritual growth occurs when suffering puts one on a path to answers, and most importantly, to change. I’ve heard spiritualist Eckhart Tolle refer to this as cracking the shell, an analogy to the shell of an egg cracking once a new form of life is ready to emerge.
I am personally able to identify with suffering affecting change.
In considering my past life experience, I don’t have a recollection of feeling extended happiness or peace. I do recollect much sadness, despair, and unhappiness. I also recollect many, many times reacting in overt disbelief that my life was so painful and difficult.
Why?? Why me?!
But I know certainly that my suffering life was the impetus for me to find a way to peace, and search I did. And now here I am, the author of a blog about turning suffering to peace. Was it all part of some master plan? Were the years of suffering a path I needed to walk to come to the place I am now?
I believe the answer is yes.
I’m inclined now to look back on my years of suffering existence, possibly, as a process of apprenticeship before being handed the keys to the proverbial kingdom. And you may want to consider the same thing yourself if you’ve had suffering.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.