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On love and suffering


“Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes, simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That’s its balance.” ~Osho (thanks to Tamar Samir for posting this quote last week on FB)

Being embodied on this earth is not always easy. A part of our existence is experienced as suffering, and we do everything we can to avoid staying in that place. Indeed, we do our utmost to escape it; we even add to our suffering by resorting to destructive behaviours to circumvent the original source of sorrow.

Many of us turn to the guidance of a spiritual path as a result of becoming aware of our suffering, and wanting to do something about it. Whether it is physical, mental or emotional pain, we come to the path looking to cultivate a more beautiful, grace-filled existence. This, however, in itself does not mean the end of suffering. Sometimes the spiritual path can involve grieving, especially when it leads to discovery of self that can ultimately be transformative, but initially quite painful.

The spiritual practice brings awareness to our lives, and ultimately can lead to freedom from suffering; after all, the goal is enlightenment. Sometimes, however, an increased awareness comes before anything else, before we have even cultivated compassion and kindness towards ourselves and other. Rather that feeling better, it is in this stage that things can initially get worse and result in severe loneliness and deflation.

About ten years ago I went through a period of deep depression. I had been practicing yoga for a number of years in earnest, but had recently been diagnosed with a life threatening illness. Overnight, I lost my self-confidence, and wound up questioning everything in my life, and was steeped in self-loathing and blame. While I did my best to carry on with daily life putting on a brave face, I ultimately broke down, crying through savasana on most days at my local yoga shala, and even had to take a few months off from work. At the time I felt embarrassed and weak, and it felt like this period would never end. I didn’t feel I had much to live for in that moment. Over time, however, things did change. They always do. I found my way out of the darkness to a lighter space and a more peaceful way of living, thanks to the practices of yoga, dear friends and family. It is an unfortunate truth that many are not so lucky. For some, the roots grow deep long before the branches see the sun and bear fruit.

Eventually and inevitably, with darkness comes light, but we must be patient with ourselves and others; time knows no boundaries in happiness and sorrow. The best we can do is doing the best we can; it can easily be overlooked that in each moment the aim of the spiritual path is in cultivating kindness and love. So that we do not waste our energy or effort in the wrong direction, so that we are not driven necessarily off course, when we recognize our attention being diverted to anything other than the cultivation of love (including anger, jealousy, greed, fear and anxiety), we might ask ourselves three basic questions: 1. Is it kind? 2. Is it true? 3. Is it necessary? (Thanks to Jules Febre for sharing these).

As humans, the more loving we are of ourselves and others, the less we have to live in fear; fear of what others think, fear of worldly events, and most of all, fear of ourselves. When we cultivate kindness and love, we are creating the right environment for those around us to do the same. When we embrace and allow ourselves to be embraced, our suffering, and the suffering of those around us diminishes. We must walk together as we grow our roots and branches, we must support one another. When we water our trees with love, we can leave the timing of the roots to grow deep and the branches to grow high up to the powers that be.

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