Saturday, September 18, 2021

Is There a Purpose to Suffering? Part 3

      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.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Is There a Purpose to Suffering? Part 2

     Last week we were discussing what suffering is and a couple of approaches to how some people deal with suffering in their lives.  Today, let's talk about karma and its role in suffering.

     Some people believe that suffering is caused by some wrong action or thought pattern that a person has done in the past, whether in this life or in a previous life.  To me, that speaks of some sort of retribution on the part of Life on someone because of an evil act or some unhelpful thoughts they had.  I find that people who preach this often come across as judgmental and lacking in compassion.  It's as if they blame the person for their suffering, say "Tsk, tsk, bad karma," and walk away.  I find that very unhelpful.  

     Karma, put simply, means what you sow, you will reap.  In other words, if you eat unhealthily and don't exercise, the consequence is a flabby, unhealthy body.  Or if you are a constant fault-finder and alienate all your friends, your loneliness is a consequence of your words. That's karma, and there is wisdom in learning from that. 

     But if a person experiences suffering when there is no obvious antecedent to the situation, such as when a child has cancer, can we blame some thought or action from a previous life as causing this?  To me, saying that Life punishes us for transgressions from previous lives is like hitting a puppy on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper for peeing on the carpet three lifetimes ago.  It makes no sense to the puppy, and it makes no sense to us.

     So, what is the purpose of suffering, then?  More on this next week.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Is There a Purpose to Suffering?

     Part of living is experiencing suffering.  There's no escaping it.  But why do we suffer?

     Suffering, according to the Buddha, comes in three forms:  pain, such as illness or death; the change of a situation from pleasure to pain; and the pain that comes from the impermanence in life.  We suffer because we falsely believe that things will not change for the worse, or that we are somehow immune to pain in life, or we are too attached to things, people or situations.  

     So many people, when met with a painful situation, ask, "Why me?"  Their pain is then compounded by self-pity.  Their pain is all that they can think or talk about, and pain is added upon pain.  They fall into a rabbit hole of misery.  

     Some recognize that others in this world are suffering much more than they are, and ask, "Why not me?"  Or they find some measure of gratitude that their situation is not far worse.  They know that focusing on the negative only makes things much more difficult.

     But if life is about learning and growth, then what is the purpose of suffering?  Let's explore some ideas next week.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Relax, It's August, Part 4

 Finally, sit, relax, and breathe:

Don't make things too complicated.  Try to relax, enjoy every moment, get used to everything.  (Angelique Kerber)

Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that's very important for good health.  (Dalai Lama)

Sometimes the best solution is to rest, relax and recharge.  It's hard to be your best on empty.  (Sam Glenn)


(image courtesy of 




Saturday, August 21, 2021

Relax, It's August, Part 3

      More ideas to help you relax:

Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.  (William Burroughs)

The time to relax is when you don't have time for it.  (Sydney Harris) 

(photo courtesy of



Saturday, August 14, 2021

Relax, It's August, Part 2

      More wonderful quotes on relaxation:

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes . . . Including you.  (Anne Lamott)

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.  (Ovid)

Sometimes, the most productive thing that you can do is to step outside and do nothing . . . relax and enjoy nature.  (Melanie Charlene)

(photo courtesy of




Saturday, August 7, 2021

Relax, It's August

      In many parts of the world, August is a time for the last flings of summer vacation, and a general time to relax and prepare for the busy season ahead.  In that light, I'd like to offer some quotes this month on relaxation.  Take a deep breath and savor these.

Tension is who you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are.  (Ude Ibiam Ufiem)

It's a good idea always to do something relaxing prior to making an important decision in your life.  (Paulo Coelho)

Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges.  So relax!  (Bryat Megill)

(photo courtesy of