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Suffering & Love...

One cannot have one without the other...and if you do, it isn’t love.

Erin Schaden


Yep, I just said that.


We all know suffering...we all are intimately familiar with it. We have lots of experience with suffering. It occurs every day. We write about it, talk about it, cry about it. Suffering is really the touchstone to all life because it is something we can all relate to immediately. Some of us have known great suffering. Others have been blessed with suffering coming in much more palatable forms. Regardless of whether our suffering be labeled great or small, we all know exactly what one means when we speak the word.


Love, on the other hand, is harder even though we all have it in our lives. Even the most hardened and cruel people have some form of love in their lives. It may be minute, it may have been fleeting but I do not think that there is a person on this earth that hasn’t felt the touch of love at least once. And if there is a person walking this earth right now, ugly and gnarled by life, hating everything and everyone, most especially themselves, I love your lost tormented soul. Really.


It is interesting to ask someone about both topics. If you ask a person about suffering, you will get an immediate dissertation on abundance. Suffering, it seems, everyone has in spades. When you talk to someone of love, most often, you will get a dissertation in lack. Everyone thinks that they don’t have love, don’t have the right kind, don’t have enough.

What I have learned is that great suffering and great love are my best disciplinarians. I really need no others.


Let me explain...


I think my first and most important lesson with both was when I got sober...I landed in recovery rooms with a great deal of suffering. I was literally seated next to people who had similarly suffered, some of whom were suffering right that very moment...but in those same rooms, there was a great and magnificent love. The kind of love that only the dying can have for life. The kind of love that happens for survivors of a shipwreck or natural disaster. A coming together of humanity in a manner that celebrates each other’s mutual survival. These two principles of suffering and love flow in abundance all around the rooms. And it will always be this way.


Great suffering is only transformed by great love. Great love can only be accessed through great suffering. These two ideas, concepts and principles are the touchstone for all growth, change and evolution.


This is important to me because I need to know that when I am suffering greatly, only great love can help me. And often, I am going to need to reach for divinity to access that kind of love. People will love us but they will always let us down, it is what people do. No one person can give us all we need, all the time. This is really the reason I think religion and spiritual principles have held their place in this world for eons...we all need access to a love that can float above the commonplace, the mundane, the fray. Spiritual love and principles fill in the gaps that people leave in their lives and the lives of others.


The application of spiritual principles means that we are seeking to move closer to Nirvana or perfection. We will likely never get there, but the goal remains the same whether we want to do the work or not...


It is helpful for me to acknowledge and then seek to remember that I am always given great suffering to force me into seeking great love. I am always given great love to ease the pain of my great suffering. These two principles being the best and most influential teachers in my life. I really do not need any others...


What I realized the other day is that while it is easy to be grateful and humbled by the great love that I feel and experience, I can do the same for the great suffering...not in a retrospective glance over my shoulder when the suffering is in the rearview mirror...but while I am in the depths of despair, flailing about, feeling destroyed. I can be grateful and humbled for the suffering while I am suffering...and I think, I am not completely sure, but I think this is what we call great self love.


That if I can find the gratitude for my suffering, I can immediately and instantly access the great love that will always be the only balm. The finding of the presence of one in my life, immediately conjuring up the idea of the other. A great and inescapable duality of my existence that I can just accept and stop fighting.


To love greatly is to know suffering.

To suffer greatly is to know love.


While it may seem like bad news...it isn’t. It is just the way it is. It is only my thoughts about it that make it bad or good.


In my living, I can see that whichever one I am feeling in any moment, also has the other one present. And the juxtaposition of them is what keeps me between the lines and on this side of the dirt. I do not need to struggle against what I can never, ever change. I only need accept that these two (suffering and love) will always be my most beneficial teachers and disciplinarians...




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