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suffering may be good for you

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homer-happyJack Kornfield cites a Tibetan prayer to which I keep returning from time to time. “Grant that I may be given appropriate difficulties and suffering on this journey so that my heart may be truly awakened and my practice of liberation and universal compassion me be truly fulfilled” (p.73). Kornfield goes on to comment that “very often what nourishes our spirit most is what brings us face to face with our greatest limitations and difficulties” (p.74). His own teacher called this “practicing against the grain” and “facing into one’s difficulties.” The Afro-American writer bell hooks tells of a song in “the black church tradition that says, ‘I’m going up the rough side of the mountain on my way home'” (p. 148).

Such sayings are difficult to hear at times of confusion and pain. The last thing the aching ego wants to hear is that suffering is good for you. What it longs for is sympathy and understanding or, even better, a quick way-out of the mess. My still-recent experience with loss and grief (see Tab “how I learned to grieve”) caught me by surprise. At a point when I thought that the pain could get no worse, I heard a voice from deep inside cautioning against rushing into quick fixes. This is important, the voice told me, you’re undergoing a transformation to radically change your life, to alter the way you are in the world.

That’s exactly what happened … and the transformation continues!  It seems to have no end. It doesn’t morph from one state to another–as I thought the term implied–but pushes and pulls me in a dynamic process of continuous unfolding.

sources: Kornfield, J. (1993). A path with heart. New York: Bantam. hooks, b. (1990). Yearning: race, gender, and cultural politics. Toronto: Between the Lines Publ.


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