One of the things that makes relationships so difficult is the way in which we protect ourselves from suffering — from our own and from each other’s. Because when you love someone you don’t want to lay your suffering on them and your fears. Also you are afraid if you open your heart too far their suffering will overwhelm you. Because when you look at the world, you just see suffering everywhere.
If you scratched the surface of every person in this room, you will find that there is some suffering. Some people who are walking around here smiling at each other and sitting down and having wonderful, gentle conversations, inside have very deep pain and deep fear. But they have learned so well how to mask it from each other. The culture reinforces that saying, don’t bring your pain to me. I only want your happiness. I’ll put up with a little of it but not much of it because you will scare me.
Now just as I said before, if you are going to be able to deal with seeing someone else’s beauty, you have to be able to acknowledge your own beauty. In a similar way if you are going to able to be available for someone else’s suffering you have to be able to acknowledge your own suffering and be able to understand the nature of suffering in such a way that you have converted the quality of suffering in yourself.
Gurdjieff, the Russian philosopher, said there is nothing that can be attained spiritually without suffering in life. But at the same time, if you are going to proceed on the journey you must sacrifice suffering. You hear the dual nature of it. You have to have suffered because the suffering is what burns through you and deepens the compassion and opens the door. Suffering brings you closer to the mystery. At the same moment if you hold on to the suffering and grab at it and sort of wallow in it or cling to it, it stops the journey.
There is an understanding of suffering such that you don’t invite suffering into your life but when it comes you work with it and transform it. The extreme of it is the Christian monk who is saying, “God, God give me more pain. Give me more suffering because I want to get closer to you.” And Maharaj ji saying, “Do you like suffering or joy,” and saying, “I love suffering – it brings me so close to God.” Ram Dass