Last week we were exploring the idea of karma as the root cause of our suffering. In some cases, we can say that our thoughts or actions are directly related to our suffering, as when we treat others cruelly and suffer loneliness, or when we speed through a school zone and get upset when a police officer issues us a ticket. In those cases, we reap what we sowed.
But what about the suffering that comes to us when we didn't do or think something that precipitated it? Let's say we suddenly lose our job because of a pandemic that caused the business to close. That's through no fault of our own. Or if we suddenly experience a serious illness. Or someone dear to us dies. How do we find purpose and meaning in those painful experiences?
If we take the attitude that life is about learning and growth, perhaps we can find ways to bring meaning in those situations. Perhaps you had a well-paying job until the pandemic caused the business to close. Were you too free with your money and spent it frivolously at times? Is this the time to learn how to be conservative with your money and to cherish the things you already have? Is it the time to swallow your pride and ask for help from those who might be willing or able to provide it? Is it the time to follow some intuition and create a business for yourself?
Or if you experience a deep loss of health or a loved one, what can you learn from your pain? Can you find ways to be grateful for what you had? Can you cherish the times when people reach out to you to offer words of compassion and healing? Can you use your pain to give life more beauty and meaning, much as salt will give things more flavor?
These attitudes give suffering more meaning and purpose, and help move you through the experience with more grace.
But I think there is another possible purpose to suffering. More on that next week.