March 12, 2024

This is Why We Suffer.

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If you are reading this sentence right now, is it not obvious that what is implicated in the title of this piece, at the very least, piqued your curiosity?

If you were to sit down long enough to be brutally honest with yourself, could you be humble enough to admit that you are indeed suffering emotionally to one degree or another?

To be here with me now, dear reader, is certainly not just a random occurrence. What compelled you to click on this link, in fact, is your own identification with sadness, grief, anger, frustration, or yearning, and as far as you’re concerned, as long as these feelings remain a part of your daily experience, you’re in hell.

Hell, as we so often refer to it, alludes to a state of being wherein our everyday lives, we feel lost in the darkness of our vacuous internal state, swallowed up the stars. In our blindness, we see no hope, and the path to the garden seems too obscure. Moreover, we feel isolated and cut-off in what we perceive as an alien and hostile world.

To date, it is estimated that more than 50 million Americans as well as 1 in 6 children ages 6 to 17 struggle with at least one mental health disorder, with suicide listed as a second-leading cause of death among those between the tender ages of 10 and 14. Each year, the total number of people taking anti-depressants continues to increase, and when you consider wars, inflation, climate change, pesticides, and toxins in our water, air, and food supply, as well as numerous other modern-life maladies, you begin to wonder how this couldn’t be the case.

I look at people every day and can see and feel the weight that they carry. I get a sense of the magnitude of anger, fear, frustration, or sorrow that holds them down like a large, dense paperweight. I see elderly people whose wrinkled faces contain no lines of laughter and young people with no spark, no get-up-and-go. I see overweight children glued to cell phones and middle-aged adults crippled with stress. All too often, I lament: what is to come of this world?

Of course, I myself am no stranger to suffering. I’ve known financial insecurity, various health challenges, grief, and plenty of other afflictions. In fact, one of the most persistent issues I’ve had throughout all those listed above is of an existential nature. Who am I? Why am I here? What is my life’s purpose? Why don’t I feel as though I belong on this planet? Why am I so depressed and anxious? What happens after we die and why does the idea of non-existence frighten me so much, especially when I am sometimes clearly too afraid to even live?

Those were the kinds of questions that plagued my mind for so many years.

Then, one day, around early July of 2021, I discovered my teacher and mentor. Little did I know at the time, this person had something important to reveal to me regarding the reasons why certain events unfolded in the ways that they did, and with that, my entire perspective on the meaning of my life shifted forevermore. Shortly thereafter, my entire relationship with life itself ceased to be, and instead of relating to it as though it were in front of me, I merged and became one with all there is.

While some of you might read that last sentence and accuse me of being a “hippy,” let me ask you this: what makes you different from a rock or a tree? Odd question, you might remark, but as most of us know by now, even science acknowledges that everything in the universe is made up of atoms, and that those atoms are 99 percent empty space.

Physicists can agree that these atoms are composed of particles of energy that vibrate and spin. Everything carries an electromagnetic field or frequency, including sounds. Of course, if you were to consult your mind and take everything at face value, you could not see nor perhaps believe this at all. The mind cannot perceive ultimate reality; rather, it can only theorize, judge, analyze data, and imagine what it is—and according to what? Its own programming, beliefs, expectations, and inherent limitations, which engenders it completely biased when it comes to the great mysteries.

But, of course, being incarnated into a human body means that from the age of two or three years of age, we are taught to believe that the brain is the seat of all that we are, which includes a personality type, our emotions (which stem from the mind and not the soul, by the way), and thoughts about ourselves, each other, and the world.

We believe that we are nothing more than physicality with a mind attached to a body, and that if something were to happen to this vessel or someone didn’t like or approve of it, we either disappear with it when it dies, or in the case of the latter, are not okay.

However, what many people fail to take into account is the fact that, if they were to ask an older person if they feel different than they did 20, 30, or even 40 years ago, they would likely say no. Sure, their body may have changed and their metabolism may have slowed down, but if they were introspective and self-aware enough to realize it for themselves, there is something intangible and even rather extraordinary that is not subject time. Instead, it simply witnesses the cycles of birth and death swirl all around it while it itself remains as strong and as rooted as a tree amid the passing seasons.

In the words of the philosopher Lao Tzu,

“We join spokes together in a wheel,

but it is the center hole

that makes the wagon move.

We shape clay into a pot,

but it is the emptiness inside

that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house,

but it is the inner space

that makes it livable.

We work with being,

but non-being is what we use.” (Chapter 11, Tao Te Ching.)

So, dear reader, let me ask you this: if the spokes, the clay, and the wood are 99 percent empty space and everything is made of atoms, what makes this thing you call your body move? What animates the cells and makes them communicate so seamlessly and harmoniously each and every minute of the day? What makes your lungs breathe and your heart beat without you having to do anything about it? The answer is life. And life is what you are.

And why is this important, you may ask? Because when we identify as our physical characteristics, with our roles and jobs, attractions and aversions, our social status and perceived separation, we suffer. This is inevitable, regardless of who we are or how much we think we have.

When you have something, paradoxically and by definition, you also have something to lose, and what brings joy and satisfaction one day will bring you an equal amount of pain and suffering the next. Superficial connections and communication can only satisfy for so long. True love is not the presence of relationship; rather, it is the dissolution of a “you” and a “me”—not in a co-dependent way, but in a manner that allows us to recognize our shared oneness in being, which is beyond a physical and psychological persona.

But as a species, we seldom recognize our essential nature. We are ignorant of anything that truly matters and are instead lost in time and battered around by problems we’ve created for ourselves and then blaming it on someone or something seemingly external to us. We identify with a nationality, a tribe, a colour, gender, political affiliation, and a religion. We forget that beyond the various costumes we wear, there are no differences, and that in the larger scheme of things, even what we perceive as differences aren’t really as important as we think they are.

If, for example, you had the same upbringing as someone you call your own worst enemy, your schema would be the same as theirs. Your behaviour might also be similar, and none of it is personal. Ultimately, however, no matter whether you recognize this or not, the same sense of awareness and aliveness that remains with you and as you even as all the thoughts, feelings, and social roles shift and change, it is the same awareness that permanently encapsulates their experience as well.

There is a poem by Thich Nhat Hahn called, Please Call Me By My True Names. In this poem, he writes the following:

“I am a mayfly metamorphosing

on the surface of the river.

And I am the bird that swoops down to

swallow the mayfly.

I am a frog swimming happily

in the clear water of a pond.

And I am the grass-snake

that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda

all skin and bones,

my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.

And I am the arms merchant,

selling deadly weapons in Uganda.” ( page 92, Please Call Me By My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hahn.)

Ancient Zen and Sufi Masters, for instance, including Christ and the Buddha, also recognized that attachment to the temporal world as well as our feelings of being separate lie at the root of our suffering.

In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, Jesus said:

“I stood to my feet

in the midst of the cosmos,

appearing outwardly in flesh.

I discovered that all were drunk

and none were thirsty,

and my soul ached for

the children of humanity.

For their hearts are blind

and they cannot see from within.

They have come into the cosmos empty,

and they are leaving it empty.

At the moment you are inebriated,

but free from the effects of wine,

you too may turn and stand.” (page 63, “The Gospel of Thomas, Wisdom of the Twin: Second Edition. Translation with Introduction, Notes and Questions for Reflection by Lynn Bauman, Logion 28.)

In my humble perspective, almost all of the world’s problems, including those stemming from climate change, are a byproduct of our perceived separateness. This extends to us feeling superior to nature and thus attempting to conquer it. This also breeds a sense of entitlement over the riches of this earth, which we hoard.

Recognition of our shared being and common origin, however, gives us the opportunity to enact policies and procedures that reflect love rather than greed, superiority, entitlement, and hatred. Therefore, the question of affordable housing and lower costs of living would not simply be a matter of radical change or even controversy. Instead, we would want our neighbors to afford the same necessities and to have his or her share of clean water and wholesome food, because we are our neighbor.

We wouldn’t want to see starving and homeless people on the street, because the same consciousness that is looking out through their eyes is the same consciousness looking out through our own. However, as long as we identify with physical appearances, an age, a gender, a sexual orientation, country of origin, a social or economic status, an opinion, belief, or political ideology, it will be “me” or “us” against “them.”

We will not be wise enough to understand that, no matter how well-constructed, deeply considered, or otherwise rational our opinions and beliefs might be to us, they are only one of several different perspectives and that our own beliefs do not necessarily relay the truth of any matter. Furthermore, if we stepped into our brother’s or sister’s shoes, we might have the same perspectives.

The problem is that we have disowned our inherent divinity, and the media, advertisers, shareholders, politicians, religious leaders, and globalists of this world, as the cunning puppeteers they are, are more than willing to tug at our self-esteem issues to sell their products, strum on the chords of our fear, and make us want to selfishly hoard our resources and believe we are lacking in them, despite earth’s natural abundance, and enforce our belief in separation so that they can keep on believing that they hold all the wealth and power.

In Matthew 23:13, Christ said,

“Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.”

It is high time for us to go into the temple, turn over the tables of the money changers and reclaim our own sovereignty and divinity. The kingdom we are seeking is within; we just don’t know it.

In the words of Jalaludin Rumi, the 13 century poet and mystic, “Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”

And a video you might enjoy:



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