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Reflections on suffering

Ram Dass leads you through a series of reflections on suffering – suffering in this world, suffering others have caused us, suffering we have caused others. How do you find balance in the horrible beauty of the natural world?

"What grace that we can even touch the possibility of seeing through the vale, what incredible grace."

- Ram Dass

Full Transcript via

Just developing that part of you that is very quiet, that is just witnessing the phenomena that arise at each sense door, and the phenomena of thoughts that come and go. Just let your awareness wander. If you hear the river, note the hearing of the river. Then you might some sensation in your foot; notice that. And then a thought may come up about the future or the past; notice that.

Keep cultivating that which notices the sensations and the thoughts. You're cultivating the witness that witnesses phenomena as they arise, exist, and pass away.

Now let arise into your awareness thoughts that concern some way in which you personally have experienced suffering. Just let the thought arise in your mind. Keep your witness strong. How do I suffer? What suffering has there been in my life? Let yourself into it just a little, it will awaken a lot of thoughts that are feeling like emotions.

Perhaps your suffering is around illness. Perhaps it's around loneliness and separateness. Perhaps it's around addictions, obsessions. Perhaps it's around shame or loathing towards your acts or your fantasies or qualities of your body or personality. Perhaps your suffering has been around the suffering of loved ones, or the death of loved ones. Perhaps the suffering is rooted in doubt and confusion. Perhaps the suffering is connected with anger, grudges, vindictiveness, unforgivingness, the tightness that that creates. Perhaps your suffering arises out of your seeing the unfairness in the world, to yourself and to others -- the unfairness in prisons, the unfairness of political systems, the unfairness that the Native Americans suffer, or the have-nots of the world. Perhaps your suffering is because the threat of destruction that is inherent within the bomb, the nuclear bomb, or the destruction that is going on to the earth, to the forests, to the oceans. Perhaps your sadness is because of the illnesses that others are suffering, such as AIDS, cancer. Perhaps your sadness is because of things unfulfilled in your life, dreams that never came to fruition. We all have them. We all have a lot of these.

Notice the relation between the witness of that sadness and that suffering inside yourself, and the sadness and suffering itself. Notice that as you get closer into the suffering how bad you feel. And at the same moment, retain the witness that sees the suffering as part of the human condition.

Stay right at the line between where your sufferings take you over on one end, and where you become the impersonal witness on the other. Stay right on the cusp between those two points. Can you see the way in which this suffering is contributing to your growth and your awakening? Just stay with it a little bit.

Get a little deeper into the suffering. Just feel the longings and the frustrations, the pain, the tightness of the body, the closed-ness, the self consciousness. You're working towards the point where you can be fully in the suffering and fully in the witness at the same moment. Pushing away nothing, clinging to nothing.

Is there a way you can see the deepest sufferings in your life as vehicles for growth? Look back over some of the sufferings of your life. Can you see the relationship between them and you now?

If your sufferings are sufferings because of what has been done to you by others, wittingly or unwittingly, by the universe, by God, are you clinging to the resentment and the anger? Is it making you tight and separate? Or is there a quality of forgiveness, of understanding about how it all is? Can you bring to mind anybody who has cut you off, who has done injustice? Can you feel how painful it is to keep them out of your heart? Can you touch them with an appreciation of the fact that we are fellow beings, often lost and often creating suffering? Can you touch another person with the warmth of forgiveness? I forgive you. Ahhh. I forgive you.

Can't you see that holding on to resentment and anger and unforgivingness, how it starves you? Can you bring that person into your mind's eye and see that being as a soul who was caught, and who's actions create suffering in others? When you say, "I forgive you," it's just acknowledging the other being's soul instead of identifying them with their actions. Your actions are good or bad, but you are just like me, another being seeking light.

Maybe your suffering is because you have acted in a way that has hurt others, and others feel resentment towards you. And you have increased someone else's separateness, isolation, and paranoia, and it hurts deeply. Imagine that person before you, and witness the part of you that acted in that way, and how you got caught in the unfolding of your karma. "I ask your forgiveness if I have made your journey more difficult. However I have hurt or injured you, whatever confusion or fear of mind I may have caused you, I ask your forgiveness." And then, allow yourself to feel forgiven. Allow yourself to let go. Receive it, draw it into your heart.

"However I have caused you pain in the heart in the past, through my anger, through my lust, through my fear, through my ignorance, my blindness, my confusion, however I have caused you pain, I ask that you let me back into your heart. I ask your forgiveness." And allow yourself to be forgiven.

Now gently turn and face yourself. How often we put ourselves out of our own hearts. Calling to yourself by your first name inside your own mind, "I forgive you. I invite you back into my heart."

Feel all the ways you have closed yourself off from yourself, the way in which you have been angry or judging, felt yourself to be insufficient, ugly, evil, inadequate, the ways in which you have isolated and push yourself away, denigrated yourself. Can you let yourself back into the wholeness of the universe? Can you allow yourself to be just the way you are, and appreciate how delicate, how difficult, subtle, how profound is the journey of the experiences of life?

"I forgive you. I let you back into my heart. I forgive you, you fear. I forgive you, your addictions. I forgive you, your weakness. I forgive you, your anger. I forgive you, your separateness. I forgive you, your pettiness and your petulance. I forgive you, your judgments."

Can you acknowledge your humanity just as it is? We all have it. We all have it. I am. I am just as I am. I exist. This is the stuff to work with. It's the holdings that cause the suffering. It's the judging that makes it, "I'm not enough the way I am, if only I were different it would be alright." You allow a tree to be a tree, a rock to be a rock, but you can't allow yourself to be yourself, just as you are.

"I forgive you, I bring you back into my heart. I allow myself to exist. I allow myself to be one of the faces of the beloved. I am beloved. I am the beloved."

Can you see the beauty in all of it? Just as it is? Can you see the way in which your clinging to judgements about yourself cuts you off from others? How you're afraid that the truth of your being will not be acceptable to other human beings? And so we suffer alone, rather than risk the truth, the truth that would show us that all of have these seeds of suffering, all of us.

If you cannot accept yourself and your own beauty, how will you see another's? Such mercy we must have towards ourselves, such a difficult journey it is. How much we have been closed off and frightened. We've tried so hard to come out of it, and we've felt so trapped, many of us. We've got to be gentle with ourselves, so gentle.

It is in the patterns of dark and light, in the shadows and the brightness, it's in the blending and the balancing that the beauty lies. The horrible beauty of nature. And our minds and our senses and our histories are all part of nature. Can you not allow nature to manifest? Can you not appreciate yourself as an evolving, awakening awareness, just beginning to sense the sunlight, to taste of the possibility?

Gently rest in the breath. So soft. The breath, a cave. The softness of the in-breath and the out-breath. The place of equanimity.

May I, through the work on myself, become an instrument for the relief of suffering in all beings. May I, through the work on myself, become an instrument for the relief of suffering of all beings.

Breathing in, breathing out.

What grace that we can even touch the possibility of seeing through the vale, what incredible grace.


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