Move Beyond Woe is Me.
This is my story of one particular attempt to transcend suffering.
I suffer. You suffer. We all suffer.
I’ve heard more and more about this concept of “suffering” as I’ve moved through this thing called life. At one, albeit insouciant, point in my journey, suffering was truly just a concept to me. I’ve learned more about it though, at first merely through studying Buddhism and reading works of various thought leaders influenced by eastern philosophy, but then came the real test — experiential learning.
“When we direct our attention toward our suffering, we see our potential for happiness. We see the nature of suffering and the way out. That is why the Buddha called suffering a holy truth. When we use the word “suffering” in Buddhism, we mean the kind of suffering that can show us the way out.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh
Now for the fun part, my experience. Picture this — I am suffering. I have found a human that I cherish immensely, and after a few months of transcendent, divine, and absolutely beautiful moments had together he, in honesty, shares that he’s had an experience with someone else. We hadn’t had “The Talk”, but given our lifestyles, shared desires for unique relationship models, and the impeding expiration date of our experience given we live on opposite sides of the U.S., I knew it was coming. We talked, oh, we talked. For hours and hours wading through the discomfort together, getting viciously vulnerable, and owning our grief. It was beautiful.
Nonetheless, it hurt. The type of physiological pain that comes from suffering — nausea, loss of appetite, and inability to sleep. My small mind, my ego, and time (getting caught up in the past or future), all exacerbated the suffering.
But, there was hope. Hope is one of my favorite concepts. Hope means excitement to me. Hope means seeing what the future could (not should!) look like. Hope means transcending suffering.
After finally drifting to sleep around 2am, I woke up at 5:30am and cue, all the F.U.D. feels— Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. I wrestled with it. I tried to seek refuge into sleep. Then, after dancing around the idea of facing my suffering, I began to acknowledge what was happening within me. I recited a concept I have learned in the past, by the likes of Alan Watts and Eckhart Tolle,
“Suffering needs time, it cannot survive in the now”.
I sang the words to this song titled Tomorrow over and over in my head,
“Let the wave wash over me, Let the wave wash over me, I am already under, Let the wave wash over me.”
I read an excerpt by author Herman Hesse picked by Maria Popova of BrainPickings,
“Action and suffering, which together make up our lives, are a whole; they are one. A child suffers its begetting, it suffers its birth, its weaning; it suffers here and suffers there until in the end it suffers death. But all the good in a man, for which he is praised or loved, is merely good suffering, the right kind, the living kind of suffering, a suffering to the full. The ability to suffer well is more than half of life — indeed, it is all life. Birth is suffering, growth is suffering, the seed suffers the earth, the root suffers the rain, the bud suffers its flowering.
In the same way, my friends, man suffers destiny. Destiny is earth, it is rain and growth. Destiny hurts.
In each one of you there is a hidden being, still in the deep sleep of childhood. Bring it to life! In each one of you there is a call, a will, an impulse of nature, an impulse toward the future, the new, the higher. Let it mature, let it resound, nurture it! Your future is not this or that; it is not money or power, it is not wisdom or success at your trade — your future, your hard dangerous path is this: to mature and to find God in yourselves.”
I was able to fall back to sleep, and rose about an hour later to the sun shining in through my window. The wave had washed over me. I felt excited. I was full of hope. I felt peace. I sat up, and played Tomorrow on repeat while meditating. My heart was bursting open. I felt enormously grateful for having the opportunity to feel the full spectrum of emotion — even the icky stuff. I felt full of gratitude for this human in my life, and the growth and transcendence we have cultivated together. I realize that suffering can be used as a tool, to build ourselves up. Suffering can be used to create the foundation of home within ourselves. Suffering can be the catalyst to finally, and fully, come home to ourselves.
As Herman Hesse said, “Blessed be he who knows how to suffer!”