Photo: Courtesy of Ed and Deb Shapiro
In the same workshop in England, mentioned earlier, Mary admitted that the idea of being free of pain—and, therefore, having less involvement with doctors and therapists—meant she would get less nurturing. Chris said being happy meant he would have nothing special to focus on. Liz summed it up when she said, "I have the support of some very loving people to encourage, assist and love me. But if I am well, will I still have as much support? I often fear my husband might leave me if I were to get better."
Ideally you should neither push suffering away nor indulge in it, but simply understand suffering for what it is: an ever-changing, impermanent condition that arises as a result of other conditions. Life is constantly changing, moving, flowing. Because nothing stays the same, then at some time there will be pain and at other times there will be pleasure; pain is not an isolated or permanent state, just a part of a greater flow. When you allow suffering simply to be, then you can know it for what it is: not as my suffering or your suffering, not as something owned, but as an expression of circumstances. Pain need not dominate your life or fill your every waking moment. Suffering is suffering, grief is grief, discomfort is uncomfortable. They are a part of being alive.
You don't have to do anything about your suffering. You don't have to develop great skills in dealing with it or spend hours of diligent practice to eliminate it. You do not have to go anywhere to enjoy your breath, to appreciate the beauty in the trees and flowers. All you have to do is be present. Try the meditation below to be in the flow of what is.
Being with What Is
Find a comfortable seat with your back upright and your eyes closed. Settle your body and bring your focus to the natural flow of your breath as it enters and leaves your body. Just watch your breath as you become quiet and relaxed.
Now become aware of the world around you, and visualize the ground beneath you and the sky above, and all of nature in her many forms.
Become aware of the flow of nature, how it is always shifting and changing. One minute there is sunshine, another there is a storm; one minute there are leaves and flowers, another the branches are empty. The tides and the moon are constantly waxing and waning, here and then gone. As you focus on this eternal movement of life, let trust grow in your heart that all things are as they are meant to be.
If suffering arises, label it as suffering; do not identify with it as your suffering. If joy arises, label it as joy. Let life live through you.
When you are ready, take a deep breath, and gently open your eyes. And smile!
Ed and Deb Shapiro are the authors of Be The Change, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World. They are featured weekly contributors to Oprah.com, HuffingtonPost.com and Care2.com. Ed and Deb write Sprint's The Daily CHILLOUT inspirational text messages. They have three meditation CDs: Metta: Loving Kindness and Forgiveness, Samadhi: Breath Awareness and Insight and Yoga Nidra: Inner Conscious Relaxation. Deb is also the author of the best-selling book Your Body Speaks Your Mind, winner of the 2007 Visionary Book Award.
Keep Reading More from Ed and Deb Shapiro:
Listen to your heart, not your head
Transform your fear into courage
The beauty of living in the moment