The death of a beloved parent. A break-up with a long-term partner. An unexpected injury. Lost love, lost success, and the loss of dreams.
Your suffering is never your own, although it damn well seems that way sometimes. Your despair does not belong to ‘you’, a separate individual divided from the whole, but to life itself.
For whatever you are going through, others have also experienced it – perhaps not in the exact same circumstances, but certainly in the same pain. Loss, breakups, disappointment, grief, illness, death – these are not ‘yours’ but ancient rites of passage, cosmic rituals that all humans, if they are honest, have been through and must go through at one time or another, if they are to be truly human.
In times gone by – and we can argue for ever over whether this was a good thing or not – our lives perhaps had more structure, more tradition, more of a framework, and there was more of a sense of community, tribe, sangha, peer support, and more guidance from elders, wise ones, healers, who had been through these universal life trials and come out the other side, and had returned to guide us through our own trials, reminding us, ‘however intense it becomes, know that you are not alone, and this is meant to happen, and many others have been here before’.
With the fall of traditional religion and the rise of the religion of science and technology and atheism, we are so very connected these days, but perhaps we are even more alone than ever, and even more desperate for deep human connection.
Who will take us by the hand when a parent dies or our partner leaves us? Who will hold us when our dreams turn to dust and everything falls apart? Who will be there at our deathbed to whisper gently in our ear, “Do not fear, child, this is only an ancient right of passage, a natural part of the journey, to be expected and to be embraced, and all is well.”?
Through the eyes of this ancient universe, nothing in your life story is a small event, nothing is insignificant and unworthy of loving attention. There are zero ‘ordinary’ moments when seeing through these eyes of grace. Everything is ‘religious’, everything is sacred, everything has more significance than you could ever hope to imagine. And this way of seeing beyond the ‘I’ can help take us out of our self-pity and narcissistic obsession with our own problems, and into a place of universal connection and deep compassion for all those brothers and sisters who, in their own unique ways, are on exactly the same journey as us.
We do not suffer alone. It is no wonder that the word ‘compassion’ literally means ‘to suffer with’.