By Suzanne E. Harrill
Suffering is part of the human condition. We can’t avoid it. Have you noticed that some people suffer more even with the same or less dramatic issues than others? Those that suffer less have made a shift in perspective away from victimhood to seeing a larger picture. They practice expanding their awareness to include knowing themselves, their real needs, and learning to meet them. Let me share a part of my early journey to illustrate this shift in consciousness necessary to shrink the amount of suffering you experience. Included are some insights I learned recently at a retreat.
Looking back, I was an avid seeker of Truth when I was young. I didn’t define myself as such, I was just curious about many things - the mysteries of life, human behavior, and solutions to problems. My natural curiosity sparked my interest in understanding what made humans tick, how to have good relationships, and how to communicate well. I wanted to move past the pain I saw in my parent’s personalities and relationship. Their pain motivated me to look beyond the boundaries of my family-of-origin to seek information that would make my life different. When I had children, I looked for information to understand them as individuals, to learn how to work with their personalities, and how they interacted with mine.
During my early childhood, I was nauseated much of the time, which I grew to understand to be partly the result of being very sensitive. I could feel my mother’s anger and frustration at her own life and relationship with my dad. I suffered if she suffered, as I had no emotional boundaries – developing healthy boundaries is one of my many lessons to understand in this school of life. In my youth, I pondered my life and knew that I wanted to be happier than what I observed from my parents. I was trained to be a victim – of others and life. Part of my journey was to learn how to release being a victim of my own suffering which was based on many faulty beliefs and behavioral patterns learned from my conditioning. It is a continual process of becoming more self-aware.
A young couple, parents of a baby with multiple physical challenges, introduced me to a new way of thinking. They showed me how to reinterpret suffering. In our brief encounter, they catapulted me on a new path for my life and I am grateful for the gift the three of them gave me.
How did I meet this couple? One summer, before we had children, my husband and I were invited to a friend of a friend’s lake house. Being in my early 20’s that sounded like a fun weekend; sleeping on the shag carped living room floor in a sleeping bag was no problem. Also invited were the young couple with a six-month old baby boy, who was so cute and smiled a lot. This baby had four birth defects, one of which was that all the ribs were grown together as one solid rib on each side. When I learned this and had a look of horror and shock on my face, they quietly told me it was okay and that they were at peace with his problems. As I relaxed, they told me about contacting the Association for Research and Enlightenment, A.R.E. for short, in Virginia Beach, that continues the teachings of Edgar Casey who was clairvoyant. Even though Edgar Casey was no longer alive, the association has thousands of readings he did for other people. The association allows others to research their own health issues by going through the readings. When I returned home I bought and read, There Is a River, to learn more about this man. Edgar Casey was a devout Christian who had the ability to fall “asleep” while meditating on a person with a physical ailment and then begin talking about what he or she needed for healing. Many people achieved results.
The young couple went on to explain about a soul reading they recently had about their child and were learning to understood some of the lessons about the baby’s current birth conditions. They were learning about themselves as well. This fascinated me, as I had never ever had a discussion on topics like these. It was not only the topics we discussed that caught my interest, I was amazed at the peace this young couple had about their child who would have an early death. Why weren’t they suffering and depressed as I would in this situation? I continued reading many of the Casey books, which expanded my horizons, and gave me much to ponder. Many more books and teachers with alternative philosophies found their way onto my path.
Fast-forward 35 years where the search paid off and a new way of life has manifested for me. I still am attracted to teachings that make me grow. One such teacher is a guru in southern India, Bhagavan, who started the Oneness University. Some of his teachings have positively impacted me. Let us look at his ideas about suffering, which may speak to you also. He says there are three types of suffering physical, psychological, and existential or spiritual. Physical suffering occurs when the needs of the physical body are not met. This dominates many of us and can keep us from dealing the other two types of suffering that all people experience whether they know it or not. He teaches that there are six basic psychological needs, which need to be met or there is psychological suffering.
1. the need for certainty and stability
2. the need for variety
3. the need for significance
4. the need for love
5. the need for growth
6. the need to make a contribution
The third type of suffering is suffering for no reason. It is an empty feeling. It is part of the human condition to feel separate and alienation – from others and from God. To fill this void, we do spiritual practices, like prayer and meditation, to deepen a personal connection to All That Is and to experience oneness with others and all of life.
In conclusion, it is possible to suffer less than others. It depends on knowing ourselves, our real needs and getting them met. It requires practices of deepening our connection to the Greater Whole and experiencing Oneness with All.