Friday, October 31, 2014

The Good in Suffering

It feels so good to have sore muscles some times. When you've gone out and had a great time, had a little too much fun and built some good memories, sometimes it results in sore muscles for a few days. You wake up a bit stiff but it feels good some how. The pain is nominal and you wouldn't trade it for the experience your gained. Other times something bad happens. You go a little too head first into your activity and you get a little beat up. You loose your footing, take a fall, let the concentration slip just enough that it doesn't turn out well. Things bleed or break and hurt enough that you'd like to take them back. You want to go back in time and be more careful, more aware, but you can't. What's done is done and it takes a good amount of time to recover from it. Sometimes that is all that will help: time.

My heart is a muscle, one of my favorites, and it is sore. Not from pumping too much blood or beating too quickly, but from doing what hearts are made to do, from sticking to a promise to myself to accept and give love openly and freely no matter the shape or form so long as it is a positive interaction. It is sore but it feels good in a strange way. It will take a few days to heal but it will be fine. My concerns lie with the one that is more than just sore, the broken one. If you've ever had a friend end up in a bad situation, you know the feeling. You want to heal the broken bones inside their body, but you can't. You want to realign things so they work properly again, so the pain is gone, but you can't. But time will.

The only thing I can think of that is worse than suffering is watching someone suffer.

That is why we put down our dogs when they are too old. That is why we pull the plug when there is no hope left. It is hard to suffer but it is far harder to watch someone or something we care for suffer. We will do most anything to help but sometimes, all that can help is time. The very nature of suffering is temporal. It passes by us just as it washes over us to begin with. Remembering that is key to dealing with suffering. Suffering is a season, and just as Winter will turn to Spring, suffering will end.

The Dalai Lama puts it bluntly:
"Our attitude towards suffering becomes very important because it can affect how we cope with suffering when it arises".
 - Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness

I carried the Dalai Lama's book entitled The Art of Happiness with me during my first weeks hiking the Appalachian Trail. I had a lot of sore muscles and tendons and joints and it was a reminder to look past those ailments and see more, to see my road to Katahdin. By seeing our suffering as more than just pain, we can harvest the lessons within it. It hurt to walk but I knew that walking was what I needed to do. Sometimes feeling pain is just our lot in life. Sometimes we can do something to fix it. On the AT, I learned stretches that helped my Achilles and stretched out my groin muscle. Sometimes we can't do anything about the pain. There was no solution to my muscles ripping apart within my body from overuse and then growing back bigger and stronger as each day passed. It was pain that must be endured. Some things must simply be endured.

How do you help someone endure something that could be completely broken when all you really want to do is realign everything so that it is fixed? Sadly, you can't.

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