My Suffering. My Greatest Teacher. Part 2…Other People’s Suffering.

I was so pleased that my blog last week generated such a nice response, very grateful it seemed to touch a nerve with some people who read it. I actually have a bit more to share on this topic of how I learned that my sufferings were actually my blessings and  greatest teachers.

I re-read a passage from one of my fave all-time books, The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. Two particular passages really hit home for me on this particular topic of suffering as it relates to how to handle the suffering of those you love.


What I have really come to learn and fully embrace is this: suffering is not something to suppress, avoid, deflect or shield others from, it’s actually such an important part of self-growth and discovery. I see now, more fully than I ever have before, that this is critical to my own journey towards living a much more peaceful, accepting and stress-free life.

And where this sense of acceptance has really has come to manifest itself in my life is when I see others around me suffering. I now don’t fear it. I don’t stress about it. I know that if I just let the experience manifest itself, one day (hopefully) that person will recognize it for what it was and grow from it as I have. Of course, I don’t do so passively. I offer loving kindness, support and encouragement always. And I try my best to let the experience reveal itself and present that very opportunity for growth.

I have found that when people stress about others’ suffering, they add their own sense of fear, ego, control and anxiety to it which only prevents the suffering from becoming the teaching tool that it is destined to be. And to me, that is another great lesson I have learned on this subject. Let it go. Breathe. Fully embrace their suffering as a gift. There is a lesson to be learned there if you just get out of the way and let it reveal itself to them.

I have recently been experiencing this firsthand with a loved one who is clearly going through one of these periods in their life. And I have used my own experiences and the knowledge passed down to us from the likes of Viktor Frankl, Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu to guide me. Rather than stress over this situation myself, thereby only adding my sense of fear and anxiety to it, I needed to let go and trust the Universe. These Laws have been passed down since the beginning of civilization from whatever Higher Power you believe in.

In the past, my own reaction to seeing people suffer caused me to take on their pain, to try and shield them, to protect them. I knew I could handle it. I was after all, Superman. But as I really started to understand suffering and self-growth, I realized I was actually doing harm to them, and to me. I was the one actually holding them back and paralyzing them. I was the one who was preventing the miracle of self-growth from happening.

Now, when I see someone struggling with a hardship, while it hurts to watch anyone in pain, I actually see it as a blessing and instead of feeling stressed inside, a sense of joy and peace actually comes over me.

Especially in the world we live in today, unless people are taught at a young age how to survive and endure the hardships and struggles that are all around them, they will never learn how to adapt, grow and evolve.

One of the best books I ever read on transforming suffering into strength is No Mud, No Lotus.Truly an extraordinary book by the amazing Thich Nhat Hanh.

And one of my favorite quotes from the book is this simple but powerful thought..

“Without suffering, there’s no happiness. So we shouldn’t discriminate against the mud. We have to learn how to embrace and cradle our own suffering and the suffering of the world, with a lot of tenderness.”

And so I guess my message when you see a loved one suffering, of course be compassionate, be a teacher and don’t add to the suffering or be a cause of it, but do try and let it unfold with a gentle touch. See it as a gift if you can. For without suffering, we don’t evolve into the best version of ourselves.

That to me is the great lesson I have learned about my own suffering.

“No mud, no lotus.”



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