David Brooks of the New York Times has written a wonderful Op-Ed titled “What Suffering Does”. It is being shared widely through Social Media with a nod from those who appreciate the experience of suffering and the lessons it can embody.
What suffering does, Mr Brooks suggests, is that people are “clearly ennobled by it” and that the “response to this sort of pain…is holiness”.
Roshi Joan Halifax discusses suffering in length in her book Being with Dying. Roshi Joan looks at suffering as a lotus flower; “the roots of pure white lotus are buried deep in the pond’s dark mud. But it’s that very mud that nurtures and feeds the lotus, making it possible for the flower to open in splendor to the sun.”
“The lotus flower is really our awakened mind, nourished by suffering.”
For those of us ‘living grief’ we don’t have an opportunity to work through our suffering, to walk out the other end. We are 'living grief’ day in day out, suffering becomes ceremonial and an almost reverent experience. Which is why it appears like a holy response.
At some point in living grief you cede, abdicate to divinity, if you want to call it that, or to God’s will, to a greater power. Or maybe you abnegate conventional medicine. The relinquish of outcomes bears vulnerability and provides us the appurtenance of being present, the ’awakened mind’ as Roshi Joan calls it.
I don’t know if my daughter is going to live another thirteen years or die tomorrow. I sit up each and every night, on the side of my bed, looking down at her as her body decides to stop breathing. It has become isochronous.
To practice living grief day in day out, is nourished suffering. And beyond the holy response, and for whatever objective suffering’s purpose is, we do dig deeper and deeper within ourselves; we become the curator of our own resilience.
What suffering does, what suffering is affords us an experience that makes us human, that sheds our walls and can free us, if we let it, from the confines of a world that is more about acquisition than altruism.
I wiggle my toes in the 'pond’s dark mud’ each and every day and I can’t help but believe that my daughter is that beautiful lotus flower that finds joy in the simplicity of the sun, and shines her suffering on all those who cross her path.
Beverley Pomeroy is an awarded and highly sought after Community Engagement Strategist, Speaker, Author of Living Grief; The Profound Journey of Ongoing Loss. Beverley’s community service began with a fifteen year career in private health care working for MDS Inc (LifeLabs). This community health care role developed her acumen not only for serving people in need, but also her strength in business management and organizational renewal.