Asking for Help Without Shame or Fear
Suffering is a big word, and a very popular one in Buddhism. I know many people who’d say that they are not suffering even though they experience jealousy, anger, regret, sorrow and many more emotions and thoughts that, simply, cause us suffering.
When I heard that concept for the first time on my first meditation retreat back in 2001, I understood it. Intellectually. But a few years later, on another retreat in the desert, where I finally dived into the pain of my childhood traumas, I couldn’t stop crying for about five days, I couldn’t bring food into my mouth, and I knew that suffering is not the star of a drama movie but a guest in our daily life.
Suffering is narrow like the birth canal. In both we get pushed through to different spheres. While in birthing our wisdom we’re pushed into the spaciousness of life, in suffering we lose touch with spaciousness, drowning in the loneliness of a dark, narrow room.
Getting caught in the turmoil of our own difficulty parches our point of view until all that is left is a slit through which the single thing our vision can land on is that “my problem is special because….. and it’ll be so difficult (or probably impossible) for another to understand or help me because…”. I fall into this trap at least twice a day.
It goes without saying that our lives are different in colour, texture, intensity. But I haven’t yet met a person who doesn’t know what loneliness is, how anger tastes, what the sensation of disappointment is, where the hiding place of shame is and how many furrows on our forehead measure out our worry. Suffering, in all its shapes and colours, is human. It connects us more than we can admit.
One of the most common isolating experiences I know, and hear a lot of from my Life Alignment clients and meditation students, is the thought that “if I’ve learned so much about myself, and I have healed so many parts within myself, and I’ve invested such a lot in getting help, then I must be able to deal with my difficulties by myself. Shouldn’t I?!”
This is an illusive thought born out of a society that admires individualism to the extent of severing itself from the first principle of life we learn in birth: