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What if the purpose of suffering is to invite us into deeper connection?

I’ve been down in Florida for the last 9 days on a holistic coaching intensive. 6 of those days were spent in a room with around 15-20 other coaches considering and exploring among many other things, how we can grow from our own experiences of suffering.

For those 6 days my attention was turned inwards, away from social media and the ‘outside world’. Now that I’m back home and beginning to engage with the stories I’m being shown, I can feel the collective pain and suffering being expressed and it’s a potent reminder to me that whatever is happening outside of us, is happening within us too.

If a part of you believes this to be true too, then I invite you to consider this,

Can we witness suffering as an opportunity for growth?

I'm not suggesting that suffering on any scale is right or wrong. I am offering a consideration that suffering is part of the human experience and perhaps the purpose of suffering is to illuminate where we are and where we are not living in alignment with our values, hence shining a light into our future.

When I hear of anything happening in the world that expresses deep suffering, I see the opportunity to direct my gaze inwards. To consider in which ways parts of me persecute other parts of me. Where am I experiencing my own suffering? What parts of me are fighting with other parts of me? Where do I project blame? Where do I perceive myself as the victim or the punisher?

A part if me wants to believe that suffering is unnecessary and that pain can be avoided. Another part of me believes that suffering is necessary. Whilst it feels confusing at times to experience something that creates such disharmony as necessary for harmony, many parts of me believe that suffering is part of what makes us human.

“The buddha called suffering a holy truth, because our suffering has the capacity of showing us the path to liberation. Embrace your suffering and let it reveal to you the way to peace.” Thich Nhat Hanh

In an experience I had a few days ago, I was invited in a coaching session to reflect on an experience in my past that felt very painful and uncomfortable to recall because of the depth of shame I felt for my participation in the experience. Over the years I had blamed parts of myself for the events that took place. A big part of me had wanted to blame the other person involved and claim my innocence. Parts of me felt guilt and parts of me felt loathing for the parts of me that allowed the cycle to repeat itself time and time again. I've been suffering for years over my stories of suffering. After the sharing my experience, the next coaching question invited me to consider the ways in which that suffering had and has benefited me. In which ways did it enable me to survive? This question was quite challenging for parts of my ego because my automatic response was to question why on earth I would we want to put myself through something so painful? However, when given the time to reflect, I was able to consider a new perception. A realisation that my actions, or what felt like in-actions in my case, were my way of surviving in the moment. This simple reframing to offer a new perception of the events allowed me to soften the grips of shame that I had been carrying. I was invited next to consider that if, in the experience of suffering I found a way to survive, could I give thanks to the parts of me that adapted to the situation to allow me to navigate as best I could the path to my future? To be here today. Could I express gratitude and thanks for the events that happened? Could I look back through the lens of love and gratitude for all of the pain and suffering I experienced? Could I gift myself a new perception to minimise the suffering? For me, the answers were yes. What I took away from that session was the understanding that to reach a place of peace and harmony, we must journey to the depths of our suffering and witness how we have benefited from creating disharmony. In every story of suffering there is the invitation for deeper connection and the opportunity for gratitude. As confusing and as painful as it might appear, we must descend to ascend.


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