Why Do We Suffer? (episode 2 of The Spiral Path Podcast)

Why Do We Suffer? (episode 2 of The Spiral Path Podcast)


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Quote: “If God said, ‘Rumi pay homage to everything that has helped you enter my arms, there would not be one experience of my life, not one thought, not one feeling, nor any act, I would not bow to.” -Rumi

The difference between struggling and suffering. 

Struggling is what makes satisfaction possible. It is pain we consciously choose—or agree to undergo, the obstacle we choose to overcome, because we want what’s beyond it. If we never struggled for something, we wouldn’t experience the joy of earning or of satisfaction. Struggle has a point, or a goal that we are reaching for. A man named Lawrence from Sydney, Australia on my Insight Timer app has this as his tagline; “Obstacles do not block the path. They are the path.” 

Suffering is when there is a component of pain, whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual, and often we cannot see the reason for it. We may feel like a victim because we haven’t consciously agreed to it. Our subconscious uses suffering for the benefit of the conscious. 

What we’re talking about here is suffering.

Everyone, but everyone, is fighting a battle, suffering at some level, knows the feeling of lost, lonely, grief, shame, worthlessness, rage and many more faces of pain. 

Seven key understandings about suffering; 

  • Human life on earth is designed to be a School of a billion lessons. Home, the other side, where we come from, is a place we are each fully known and fully loved. The other side is our soul’s reality. Our human lifetime is an illusion where we get to play out all the other experiences that are possible to have, in order to expand, mature, learn and evolve. It’s like the video games where players explore jungles, drive super fast, or fight and kill, simply as an experience. The type of suffering we experience as humanity, doesn’t exist in our Home reality. Suffering exists in our illusion because we wanted to experience it and learn from it.

  • Resistance (what we resist, persists). What am I refusing to look at, experience, own, feel, get help with, give attention to? The parts of our life experience and the parts of ourselves that we ignore or reject, will keep trying to get our attention any way that they can. Our resisting often becomes more painful than if we simply accept the suffering, and extract the lessons it offers. “When we turn away from our pain or away from wherever we are, we abandon ourselves. Authenticity is the highest state of being for the spiritual practitioner. We resist and avoid so we guarantee that it will come back up in our realities again; only it will come back bigger next time. In fact, in the years to come, authenticity will become the replacement for enlightenment as the true goal of spiritual practice.” -Teal Swan

  • Conflict with others is a most effective mechanism of evolving, yet it can involve great suffering. If there were no conflict or resistance from others to how we show up in the world and who we decide to be, there would be little reason for us to grow, improve or change. We are always moving along the spiral path of evolution, it is as inevitable as physically growing from child to adult. All things serve the All. The growth that is happening inside our conflicts—the ways we humans rub the rough edges off each other—creates suffering. Conflict can be either a test in an area we are working on growing in, or a course correction to help us get back on our path if we have veered off, become stuck or complacent. Some conflicts may seem primarily about the other person but if it involves me, I are meant to learn a lesson from it too. 

  • “Anything that annoys you is for teaching you patience.

    Anyone who abandons you is for teaching you how to stand up on your own two feet.

    Anything that angers you is for teaching you forgiveness and compassion.

    Anything that has power over you is for teaching you how to take your power back.

    Anything you hate is for teaching you unconditional love.

    Anything you fear is for teaching you courage to overcome your fear.

    Anything you can’t control is for teaching you to let go and trust the Universe.”    -Jackson Kiddard

  • Beliefs (Jesus called them demons) and the striving to keep our beliefs true or “right”. “A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind." -Robert Balton. Clinging to our beliefs—which is what keeps our mind closed to other possible truths, causes suffering. Beliefs often keep us from healing and evolving. Fear or ego pride usually keeps us stuck in our beliefs and we cause ourselves more suffering by fighting to be “right” or fighting to make anyone with different beliefs “wrong”. The suffering will continue until we let go of old ways of seeing or understanding and let new ideas and possibilities enter.  

  • Pain’s role. Earth and our current humanity exists in 3rd Dimension, now transitioning into 5th Dimension. Third dimension is primarily an experiential dimension. Its like the baby and toddlerhood part of childhood. We have limited intellectual capacities while in human form so we learn the most from experiencing. Pain is the equivalent of those metal guardrails along roads. It hurts when we hit them. It does damage. We don’t blame the guardrails, we learn to pay attention to staying on the road, we learn to drive appropriately. Our episode on physical health also deals with body pain and how we can ‘hear’ the message our body is trying to tell us via pain.                                    Brene Brown says this about pain; “Courage is forged in pain, but not in all pain. Pain that is denied or ignored becomes fear or hate.” and this; “Pain is unrelenting. It will get our attention. Despite our attempts to drown it in addiction, to physically beat it out of one another, to suffocate it with success and material trappings, or to strangle it with our hate, pain will find a way to make itself known. Pain will subside only when we acknowledge it and care for it. Addressing it with love and compassion would take only a minuscule percentage of the energy it takes to fight it, but approaching pain head-on is terrifying. Most of us were not taught how to recognize pain, name it, and be with it. Our families and culture believed that the vulnerability that it takes to acknowledge pain was weakness, so we were taught anger, rage, and denial instead. But what we know now is that when we deny our emotion, it owns us. When we own our emotion, we can rebuild and find our way through the pain.” – from “Braving the Wilderness”.

  • Karma. We’ll do an entire episode on karma. There are teachings that say suffering can be related to balancing karma and that once the lesson is learned, or the karma is balanced, the suffering stops. That’s one way of looking at it. Personally, I find it more helpful to ask “Golden Rule” type questions. First; “Am I treating myself how I want to be treated? How can I use this suffering to get better at treating other people how I want to be treated? Because that is literally the whole reason behind karma anyway.

  • Tests to determine if we’re ready to advance or can handle more responsibility/learning. Suffering can show up as a test. Like the end-of-course exams we have to pass in order to advance in school. When we want to up-level or change, then a test will surely come along to test that resolve, to help us strengthen our resolve. For instance, maybe we decide to use our words only constructively. Or maybe we start teaching on forgiveness, or writing about how to be a better parent. Jose Stevens calls it “bidding for power”. It’s a natural human growth process. These tests are not pass/fail. Nor are they obstacles to up-leveling. They are helpers, supporters that call out to us, “Here is some practice.” “I will help you learn what you need to know for greater success on this path.” “I will help you rearrange your life to better reach your goals.” My own transition to writing full-time, happened under this type of suffering. I was working in law enforcement, doing about 5 different jobs because I was good at them all. I lived in the state of hypervigilance, everybody loved me, the sky was the limit for how far I could go. And yet, I desperately wanted to write. At first, after I started the job at the Dept. I wrote late at night after my family had gone to sleep. I wrote if I had a lunch break and on weekends. But as I spent more time in the state of hypervigilance, as I used the left side of my brain more and more exclusively in the jobs I took on, I found it harder and harder to be creative. I couldn’t focus on my writing, I was too exhausted all the time, my mind wouldn’t stop problem-solving the eternal issues at work. Anxiety became my norm, anxiety attacks came more and more frequently. I cried on the way to work, and felt hopeless, trapped and eventually numb all the time. Hardly anybody knew this because I’m a gold-medal champion faker. People are shocked to find out I’m way introverted, I’m just good at faking social exuberance. Eventually, the pain got bad enough that I quit my job to write. I told most people that I’d decided to chase my dream because when I’m 80, and looking back at my life, I am certain I would regret not writing. This is absolutely true. It’s also true that I was suffering at an almost unprecedented level—and that is saying something, after the things I’ve survived. The truth is, suffering came to me as a test and it forced me to choose consciously, to risk much, if I really wanted to “up-level”. Suffering helped me rearrange my life so that it supported my dreams, my calling, my passion.

  • Quote: “In life there has to be obstacles. Otherwise, how do you prove that you’ve learned anything? We don’t have to have big problems. If there is no dark, you don’t recognize light. If you don’t do it for yourself and everything's just easy and all laid out, there is no growth in that. It’s the challenges that are growth. So the whole idea is to grow, to learn, to master the human emotions. To experience the joy and limit the fear and do it anyway. It is important to learn to overcome fear.” -Sacred Hidden Knowledge by Dolores Cannon

    Ways to work with suffering;

    When we talk about ways to work with your suffering, it’s important to recognize you have many choices, instead of going immediately into trying to stop or escape the suffering. If suffering is a tool that is meant to be added to your toolbox, you don’t want to just throw it away or avoid it. You might want to welcome it, examine it, learn what it is, and how to use it.

    Here are 6 examples of choices you have when you are in pain; 


  • Gratitude; is like a life raft to get ourselves through the storms of life without drowning. Gratitude energetically expands you. You are the container for every experience during life so if you expand, you have more breathing room, more space to look at and deal with difficulties like suffering. Gratitude invites in higher frequency emotions and then replicates them every time you choose to feel gratitude. I started a gratitude practice while I worked at the Dept. My rule was that during my commute, I had to think of and say at least three things I was thankful for. So there I’d be, often crying and driving and muttering “I’m thinkful the car is working. I’m thankful I get to see the mountains everyday. I’m thankful I have clothes that I like.” In the midst of your suffering, you can still focus on what you appreciate in life. Whether it’s basic things like clean water, sunrises, a cup of tea, a job or a person, any gratitude expands you and helps you use your suffering as the tool it is. Continue to practice gratitude and that life raft you were just surviving in, transforms to a houseboat. Eventually, even a luxury yacht. Gratitude is energetically powerful and can shift how you experience every part of life.

  • Acceptance; This is accepting every single emotion that touches you, every bit of pain or joy or fear or excitement. Letting every experience of your life become conscious and seen and allowed to be. Here’s the secret; they all pass once we consciously learn their lesson. It’s what we resist, what we won’t allow or see or feel, that lingers and tries a hundred different ways to get our attention. This practice, radical acceptance, in itself reduces much of our suffering. It is said that complete self-acceptance and self-love is what we are seeking from the soul level. 

  • Self-care; Once you’re practicing acceptance, the next step is giving yourself what you need, aka loving yourself. If this is hard, think of yourself as a small child, and give yourself exactly what that small child needs most. Especially when you’re suffering, ask “what do I need most right now?’ Then care for yourself with the same nurturing love and acceptance and joy a parent would use to care for a distressed child. Self-care is not something you earn with good behavior. It is the constant unconditional active love which we might consider Divine or God love.

  • Asking for what you need; As you accept and nurture and care for yourself, if there are ways the people in your life can love you well, communicate that to them. Without expectations, completely accepting their no or yes to your requests, have the humility and courage and self-worth to ask for what you need. This can be super hard but incredibly rewarding for you and your relationships. If asking people is too hard at first, ask the angels and guides that are always at your side, waiting for the chance to comfort and assist you. There are two actions steps involved in this; you have to ask, and then you have to receive.

  • Choosing to be joyful/content and find or create beauty; I’m not seeking constant happiness bc I know that life is meant to be more than just “happy” all the time. I do choose to be content with what is, to find happiness when I want it, and I’ve learned not to wait until there’s no suffering. I’ve learned that like beauty, joy exists inside all of life, even suffering. Like the wise teachings that say we can choose to find the beauty of any given moment, we also choose to find the joy of any given moment. We can create beauty, happiness, contentedness, joy. Instead of passively waiting to “have” joy or waiting to “find” contentedness, choose it. Decide to be content. Create it. Using gratitude will help you find or notice these higher vibrational experiences and emotions regularly. Focusing on what we want, instead of whatever suffering we are in, balances out the suffering, can even change our perspective entirely about the suffering.  One of my favorite Rumi poems says “Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you're perfectly free.”

  • Forgiveness; A Sufi holy man was asked what forgiveness was. He said, ‘It is the fragrance that flowers give when they are crushed’. Forgiveness is nothing short of magic. Forgiveness stops karmic cycles. Stops suffering. Allows healing. Of all these ways to work with suffering, the pivotal one is forgiveness. Self forgiveness has to come first. We often forget to forgive our own imperfection, mistakes and failing. Only when we’ve fully forgiven ourselves, can we fully forgive another. Forgiveness flows out of acceptance. Not approving, or agreeing that an act of un-love is okay, just accepting that it happened and accepting whatever pain or emotions it brought to you, then forgiving. It’s not up to us to teach another person what’s right and wrong. In fact, it’s impossible unless they allow it. Our choice is to forgive the ‘wrongs’ done to us and the wrongs we have done, or to allow our own suffering to continue. Emmanuels says (in Emmanuel’s Book 3)“Forgiveness is not for others, it is for you.

  • What can we offer to ease others suffering?

    “Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.” -Rumi

    Emmanuel says that every moment of love and concern eases someone who is suffering. 

    The concept of Metta used in meditation practices is the practice of sending out loving kindness to ease the suffering of individuals or of all beings. 

    Certainly we can love and treat others as we would want to be loved and treated. 

    We can do what’s in our power and calling to ease suffering whether individually or collectively. 

    ex: The organization "Exodus Road" working to free child sex slaves, "Yobel Market" working to provide fair wages in high poverty countries, Accepting immigrants into our country, Accepting foster children into our home or Adopting. The "Threshold Singers" who sing for those at the thresholds of life (birth and death). Homeless Shelters. Animal Shelters. What needs do you encounter the most? What could you do to meet them?

    How do we know someone is suffering? Often, they’re being an asshole. Finally, I figured out that the times my husband was acting like the world’s biggest jerk, were the times he was suffering the most. Same was true of my children, and myself. I’m still working on getting past my reaction to mean behavior, especially when it’s a stranger. When I succeed, I aim at the heart. I might ask, what could I do to support you right now? Often as not, it’s simply listening compassionately, without trying to fix. 

    Of course, when I know that person and their love language, I simply start with that. For my husband, it’s a head massage. For one son it’s sitting or laying beside him after bringing him a cup of tea and verbalizing what I love about him. For another son, it’s decluttering his room a little or folding some of his laundry or a small impromptu gift.  

    Quote: “With healing, there are those who are not ready. They want their illness(suffering). It serves them. They have to be ready. Some of them relate to Jesus telling them in the Bible to cast out their demons first. It’s not a real demon. It’s the beliefs inside them. They can’t heal. There’s no point in bothering to heal them until the demons have been cast out and the demons are of their own creating. If someone wants to stay in lower energies you must honor that. You have done your job.” -Sacred Hidden Knowledge  by Dolores Cannon

    Additional Resources;

    -Anthony DeMello’s The Way to Love, or Rediscovering Life; Awaken to Reality.

    -Elizabeth Lesser’s Broken Open.

    -Colin Tipping’s Radical Forgiveness

    -Anything and everything Tara Brach offers. Just google “Tara Brach on suffering” and start delving into the many compassionate podcast teachings or meditations that she offers.

    -Jose Stevens articles on thepowerpath.com. Especially helpful to understand the larger collective suffering that is happening around the world right now, and what’s happening beneath the surface or behind the scenes.

    -Kyle Cease on accepting all of our experiences or emotions. He has powerful sample clips on youtube, and longer seminars that you can purchase. He offers really excellent and life-changing perspectives and practices.

    -Emmanuel’s Books.

    -Anything Brene Brown offers; Books, TED talks, interviews, etc.

    Thank you so much for listening (reading).  

    Remember to visit our author website DDAdair.com and check out our fiction book series set in Atlantis, titled "The Golden Age Series". Available at Amazon and other online booksellers. 

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