“The pain and suffering that comes to us has a purpose in our lives–it is trying to teach us something. We should look for its lesson.” ~ Peace Pilgrim, Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words …
This brings to mind one of my favorite quotes, one from the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus: “He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.” What this means to me is that many of my most important lessons come through pain and suffering, so if I hope to learn important lessons in my life, I should expect pain and suffering. And although this perspective seems fatalistic, it is good to know that when we are faced with such things in our lives, they will bring us something more than just pain and suffering.
Now Mildred is not saying that we should seek out pain and suffering or invite it into our lives, nor is she telling us that we should rejoice when it does. She is simply encouraging us to pay attention to it when it is here and to learn from it–as it holds within it more than simply pain and suffering. The physical pain we experience is our body’s way of telling us that something is wrong, and similarly, our emotional, mental, and spiritual pain and suffering speaks to our heart and soul, and it carries with it profound messages that can help us to grow and expand into something greater, to change course and begin down a path with great purpose and meaning, to discover our hidden potential and share that with the world around us.
This is also a challenge to us to question how we see pain and suffering in our lives and to then commit to accepting and looking for what they might be teaching us when they come into our lives. It is often the case that the most devastating life events lead us to become stronger and more self-sufficient–the worst heartbreaks lead us to a greater understanding of who we are and what we need in our relationships, and the most serious medical diagnoses are the ones that lead us to re-examine our lives and discover a new richness, purpose, and fullness to life. And although most of us would do just about anything to avoid pain and suffering, if we would simply be open to channeling some of that energy towards learning from our pain and suffering instead, we might realize that they are part of something bigger; perhaps road signs to help us on our journey through life.
Take some time to reflect on how you tend to react to the pain and suffering you experience in your life.
Questions to consider:
Why do so few of us recognize the positive side of situations that are painful?
What kinds of lessons can be given to us through things such as pain and suffering?
What kinds of important things have you learned from painful situations?
For further thought:
“People have a need to feel their pain. Very often pain is the beginning of a great deal of awareness. As an energy center it awakens consciousness.” ~ Arnold Mindell, Dreambody: The Body’s Role in Revealing the Self