I know some of you are on the Siena Wellness email list so you may have seen my thoughts on suffering last week. I'm hoping we can go deeper into this topic together this week! Stay tuned for some questions and discussions... and thank you for being a part of this community.
Let's talk about suffering (please don't stop reading!).
Last Monday, I took my kids to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. I was hoping a nice change of scenery and fresh air would do us all some good - but what I got was an unexpected reminder
There were lotus flowers as far as we could see. It was amazing. And I immediately thought:
"no mud, no lotus."
This idea comes from Thich Nhat Hanh's book No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering. He writes:
Understanding and compassion are possible only when you come in touch with suffering. Without the mud, there is no lotus flower. Without suffering, there can be no understanding and compassion. You can make good use of suffering to generate these two energies. Understanding means first of all to understand suffering—the suffering inside and then the suffering of others. It is with the mud of suffering that we can create the lotus of understanding and compassion. No mud, no lotus. This is very clear.
We're DEEP in the mud. A global pandemic. Worsening racial disparities. Environmental destruction. Loneliness. Grief. Overwhelm.
As a culture we don't like suffering - we distract ourselves and consume (food, alcohol, social media, news, TV) to "feel better" instead of really feeling. We try to talk ourselves out of our grief with comparative suffering (that persistent thought: "Why should I complain? Others have it so much worse." More on that in this awesome Brené Brown Podcast). But numbing or discounting our feelings doesn't work. It also numbs the joy.
We know compassion is not finite. Love does not need to be rationed.
But in order to feel it all, we have to feel it ALL.
So I'm getting in touch with my suffering. It sucks.
It's raw, disappointing, self-judgement producing and more. But it's also helping my joy - seeing the lotuses in my life blooming. My family. My students. The moms I work with. My friends.
We'd love to hear about your suffering. Your grief. Your anger. Your fear. Because as we start to name this deep, muddy pit we're in, we'll be able to break the surface, take deep breaths, and see those amazing lotus flowers blooming.