Finding Joy in the Midst of Pain and Suffering
As I have moved into the 60’s decade, I have found myself pondering life and what our journey is really all about. It seems clear that life brings about many opportunities to grow and change. There is an ebb and a flow, ups and downs, moments of pain and suffering and moments of joy. For someone who has spent the last 28 years listening and walking the fire with others who are in pain, as well as living my own life of 61 years, I am well aware that there is much suffering and pain in the world. The question that rears its head through the dark times has been, “How do we find joy when there is so much pain and suffering around us?” In those times, it can seem almost disrespectful to live in joy when pain abounds. For me, my own personal work is to find joy in the moments and not take the pain to a level of suffering, the place where thinking about it makes it true suffering as I live in it 24/7. I don’t profess to be an expert about this. I just know that I have to keep that intention out in front of me, reminding me moment to moment, to live in the joy of the moment.
In an effort to better understand joy and what it really takes to be in a joyful state,even when suffering is happening, I found a great resource, The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. This book is full of many profound ideas which I have taken in and put on like a salve, allowing the intention of joy to seep deep within me. I do believe it is our mission in life to live with joy. So how do we do this when pain and suffering abound?
The Dalai Lama speaks that how we handle our adversities will impact how we move through pain; turning painful experiences into opportunities makes all the difference. When we experience pain, we experience opportunities for growth and change. Most of us don’t change without some prodding or uncomfortableness. When things happen that require change, they become opportunities. Plus, it is through our suffering that we experience the contrast of joy. “Suffering is what makes you appreciate the joy.” writes the Dalai Lama. (Lama, 2016) It is like getting out in the fresh air after being sick and housebound for some time, taking in the freshness of the outside breeze and allowing it to sooth your face, in contrast to being housebound for too long.
Another part of finding the path of joy in the midst of the suffering is to realize that suffering has some meaning. Suffering is in our life as an opportunity for us to heal, grow and change. When we realize that we have something to gain from the experience, we can shift ourselves out of suffering and into receiving the gift for ourselves. Without finding meaning in our suffering, we easily become embittered and joy eludes us.
The bottom line is pain and suffering give us opportunities to grow and change; seeing those moments in this way allows us to move into a state beyond the pain. Pain and suffering also gives us a contrast so that when joy comes our way, we recognize it and can be in it. Those little moments suddenly have real meaning. Being present in our moments can help us to find joy in a tidbit right here, right now, even if we are surrounded by pain. So, for today, regardless of where your life is, take a moment to find some joy in just this moment. Realize that life is actually in some sort of order and ponder your life with curiosity that this moment may be all about your own greater good.
Lama, D. a. (2016). The book of joy. New York: Avery Publishing.Tags: finding joy, gaining from suffering, suffering has meaning, suffering makes you appreciate joy
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.
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