Suffering. Even uttering the word bears a heavy weight. As a result of this weight, our discussions of suffering are often limited and we can feel like we’re alone on an island. Isn’t this unfortunate considering suffering is an experience every human has at some point? Suffering actually unites us. We are not alone on our journey and we were never intended to be alone. We are not intended to experience hardships alone. We all suffer, and through the human condition of suffering we are unified.
Connecting with others is a step that must be taken to alleviate the pain that you feel. And…yes, it is easier said than done at times. A common experience when suffering is that the world around us may start to feel like it’s shrinking. By focusing on our ourselves and personal pain, we develop tunnel vision and can only see and feel our pain. Losing this connection to others only intensifies our struggle because our 1-point of focus is about ourselves and our pain. When we shift our thinking towards others, and choose to connect and listen, we will remember that we do not suffer alone. We instead will shift our focus to helping lift the heavy weight up off our friends. This, my friends, is the practice of compassion. Practicing compassion and loving empathy towards another actually releases oxytocin and reduces inflammation in the cardiovascular system. Physically from the inside-out, practicing compassion generates feel-good emotions.
Compassion literally means “suffering with”. It is a practice and cultivated skill that recognizes the elements of our human nature that we all share.
Is it at all a surprise that studies show those who live the longest are a part of a community? We need each other, friends. We are all in this life together. This is why many choose to start families, eat and pray together, live in dorms, join clubs, dance with a partner, or even choose to work in a coffee shop versus at home. People need people. Or as it was more profoundly said by Desmond Tutu, “A person is a person through other persons”.
“A person is a person through other persons” ~Desmond Tutu
Ever hear of the phrase “There’s more comradery in coach?” Keep showing up in the little communities all around you in life. Or perhaps even join a new “kula” or “sangha” (sanskrit for community) to support you on your journey and personal growth.
Desmond Tutu also once suggested:
“Don’t ask yourself how you can be happy, ask yourself: ‘How can I help to spread compassion and love?’”
Spread compassion by being with others and listening. Spread love by rejoicing in others joy. Don’t only look to yourself for joy, look outside all around you to find it. To paraphrase the Dalai Lama’s words of wisdom:
Your chances of joy are 7.7 billion to 1 when you look for joy and happiness outside yourself.
Stay connected my friends, and always remember we all suffer as one.
*Quotes and insight taken from “The Book of Joy” by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams*