Friday, 29 April 2011

a Moment for Wisdom…



“No one wants to bury or ignore pain: that is dangerous. However, re-living pain in an un-healing context simply keeps the wound fresh.”

Paul Watzlawick


Suffering is not accidental, suffering is not mindless and suffering is not random.

What happened to me in Camden, New Jersey made me.  Made me who I am. Suffering is no more random than beauty. And, it has the same purpose. It has the purpose of awakening you.

Sharif Abdullah

Personal Wisdom:

·In your life, what has been the relationship between pain and suffering?

· What is your own experience with pain? With suffering?

· What is relationship between pain, suffering and sacrifice?

· Give a personal example(s) of your own sacrifice?

Societal Wisdom:

  • Give an example of societal sacrifice? Is there anything that we give up as a society for the benefit of another?

  • Perhaps what our society is doing is
    the exact opposite of sacrifice – taking on pleasures at the pain of others (other peoples in the world and also future generations of our own people). Do you have examples of this?

a Moment with Sharif…


Here’s a complex, two-party “Moment”.  (And, it should be read in context with Wednesday’s “Moment”…)

Grief, pain, suffering and sacrifice… these energies lie at the base of our soul. Bringing them into balance – as individuals and as a society – represents some of our core work.

In Breaker societies, we are taught to avoid pain at all times, and to increase sensory pleasure at all costs. While our television commercials try to convince us that this is “normal”, our souls know that balance is our goal, not never-ending pleasure. (There’s even a “New Age” Breaker version of this… that all experience of pain is “bad karma”.)

Years ago, in my near-death experience, I lay in my hospital bed, in considerable pain
from two back-to-back gut operations. The nurse said, “Whenever you are in pain, just press this button here” to increase the morphine dripping into my IV. I asked her to remove the morphine completely. She looked shocked and asked why. I said, “Pain is my body’s way of telling me something is wrong.  Drugs are my way of telling my body to ‘shut the hell up’. Right now, I need to be listening…”

I think this is what Paul Watzlawick is referring to… pay attention to pain (physical,
emotional and soul-pain). However, don’t keep it going, keep it “fresh”… that is not a path
to health and healing.

To me, the relationship between pain and suffering is important to explore. We tend to use these words interchangeably, but I think they mean different things. When you derive a lesson from pain, pain is elevated to suffering. By consciously taking away the morphine (the mask covering the experience of pain), I was able to learn an important lesson (that my
doctors had no idea what was wrong with me – another story for another day). I was able to elevate the pain to suffering. (I don’t think that I’m particularly strong or noble… I know that there’s a level of pain where I’d be begging them to knock me out! But, knowing my threshold levels, I can tolerate a great deal of discomfort in order for me to “get” my lesson…)

And, there is yet another “elevation” possible: to consciously take on pain and suffering, for the sake of one’s higher self, for the sake of another, or for the sake of society. This
makes the suffering SACRED – this turns pain and suffering into SACRIFICE.

Think about the times you have “sacrificed” something. You’ve sacrificed your physical
comfort for your time in the dentist’s chair, to become a better person. You’ve sacrificed
your time in order to help another.  You may have sacrificed your popularity in order to maintain your dignity…

We’ve seen or heard of greater sacrifices.  The parent who runs into a burning building to save the children. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel and many others, sacrificing years in prison, for the sake of the society to which they were committed. None of us can match the sacrifice of Jesus, being nailed to a piece of wood and hoisted for the
entertainment of those gathered to mock and ridicule – in pain because of his spiritual beliefs/knowing.

In most painful situations, you will have an opportunity to elevate the pain, to suffering or even sacrifice.  Or, you’ll have an opportunity to avoid it completely. The choice is yours.




All photos by Sharif Abdullah, unless otherwise noted.


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3 Responses to Friday, 29 April 2011

  1. Susie says:

    I think pain is an important part of life. Just as the experience of physical pain leads to an effort to find the source and remove it or remedy the situation, the experience of emotional/nonphysical pain leads me to ask myself what lesson I’m supposed to learn from the experience. What is it about me that is causing this? Through pain comes growth. One of the best lessons I ever learned is that it is okay to be in pain. It is important to be able to sit with it and let it be, all the while knowing “And this too shall pass.” The good news is that the amount of time I spend “in pain” has been radically reduced since I learned these lessons!

    • admin says:

      Absolutely! A large part of our “pain” goes into the extreme measures we take trying to avoid it.

      When I was taking karate (several decades ago), the first thing that our instructor did was knock us down. A lot. In a padded room, he would slam us against walls, throw us on the floor… trying to get us to fight our fear of falling, and fight our natural tendency to resist and block the fall.

      Fast forward to last year… walking down the street in downtown Portland, I tripped on an uneven sidewalk, and down I went. Instinctively, my arms went out to block the fall with my hands… a great way to break both wrists. So, I tucked my hands, turned my shoulder and rolled into the fall. There goes Sharif, rolling down the street! Other than being embarrassed, no injuries.

      Last week, I ran into an old acquaintance… both wrists in casts. She didn’t have to tell me what happened.

      We can learn to “roll” with emotional and soul pains, also.


  2. Chuck Willis says:

    I understand, and have experienced, the relationship between pain and suffering a bit differently from those that you shared in the above “Moment”, Sharif. I have suffered most when I experienced physical or emotional pain that I resisted, as you described in your sharing with Susie. From this, I discovered that pain is sometimes unavoidable, but suffering is always optional. When I open to the pain and allow it, I avoid suffering. My recent episodes with kidney stones is a reasonably good example.

    My conscious (or unconscious) mental, emotional, and behavioral choices are really important to consider in this regard. It is far easier for me to “embrace” and allow the pain of a passing ailment (as Susie described) than to embrace the pain I have generated as a result of poor choices and predictably harmful consequences to myself and others. Guilt and suffering are common bedfellows!

    In sacrifice, my experience of pain can truly transcend suffering.

    Blessings to All,


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