Changing our Reaction to Suffering

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Once you see the way it is and just see it fully, you won’t really wish to change it.
You may want to understand it, but you won’t want to change it.
It’s just the horrible beauty of suffering.
– Ram Dass



What is your first reaction to suffering?

I know my old reaction was always “Go away, change this, and get me out of here!”

However, Ram Dass looks at the role of the ego in our reactivity to life’s dark reflections, and shares that when we explore a different response to suffering, such as opening our hearts through practices like stillness, sitting in nature and meditation; we can learn to see the healing beauty of suffering.

He says the reason our first reaction is to try to change it, or stop it from happening, is because it’s a threat to the stability of the ego and so, when we learn to be with it, slow down with it, we will find, over time, our suffering teaches us a new understanding of life.

The only reason we don’t embrace suffering is because we all believe on some level we shouldn’t be experiencing it!

We may say “How did this happen”?”or”Why me?” or “I don’t want to be here anymore.” And so, once we become aware of the mantra’s we have lived with unconsciously and the old beliefs that keep us stuck, we can learn to release them and stop our suffering from appearing again and again.

It’s normal that our minds will create boundaries around suffering, and so, it must become a practice in stillness to move into our heart space and learn from our suffering.

Our heart space is the portal to our deep understanding, wisdom, compassion and our resilience to move forward and begin again.


“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

Buddhist proverb


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26 thoughts on “Changing our Reaction to Suffering

  1. Inspiring and profound words so well said on suffering. Great quotes by Ram Dass and Buddha, Karen. Life in duality will always be good and bad. As you have said it rightly by being in our own stillness, silence and meditation can we know how to deal with suffering and pain. Lovely.

  2. Wow. Nicely done, Karen. Succinct description and easily understood. Having survived deep depression, I know the separation, isolation and desperation that IS at the core of that suffering. Thank you for this important reminder. 🙏🏻

      1. This is the highest level of acceptance, not wishing it to change! And once we cross that gate we gain strength that we’ve never known before.

  3. In Geeta there is one passage, whose translation from Sanskrit to English would be: someone who neither worries about suffering, nor shows interest in pleasure, someone who feels no anger, fear or greed, and whose mind stays calm always, is a true wise man. Your post beautifully illuminates the first part of this shloka.

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