Suffering: From Resistance to Challenge

posted Aug 26, 2012, 12:41 PM by Interfaith WS

        Divorced after twenty years of marriage, Laura lived alone in a city apartment. She worked as a buyer in a department store and spent her free time trying to meditate and reading spiritual books. Depressed by her inability to meditate, she sought help at the workshop. What Laura did not grasp was the essence of the spiritual process: the movement from individual to Universal, the submergence of the individual will into the Universal will.

        “This summer my mother came to live in my town,” she told us. “Now she is in a nursing home near me. Earlier, she had lived with my brother and his family, but when they left the country, she came here. Her demands on my energy and time make me bitter and resentful. The worst part of it is that she interferes with my spiritual life. I find the situation intolerable, but I don’t know what to do about it.”


        Darshani: Let us look at the matter objectively. The situation of a mother living in a nursing home near her daughter is not uncommon. Many aging parents live even under the same roof as their offspring, a situation that demands much more energy and time. Your response of anger at what you consider to be an imposition on your life is a response not to the situation but to your own resistance.

        The facts that your mother is near you, and that she needs you, and that she has no one else to care for her now imply that the situation also answers some need in your life at this time. The need may not be apparent; still, it exists.

        Alter your angle of vision. Instead of regarding the situation as intolerable, view it as a challenge. Use it to mirror your current inner state. See in that mirror the underlying cause of your resistance, and work on it. If no such opportunity had arisen to work on yourself, you would not have seen that area of resistance, and very probably, you would undergo similar suffering in the future. To get beyond any circumstance, we have to go through it.

        The Buddha said that all suffering comes from resistance. Instead of repeating to yourself, “This is a pain in the neck,” repeat, “This is a golden opportunity. I will use it for three purposes: (1) to take a deeper look at myself and clean out the psychological cobwebs, (2) to reciprocate the care that my mother gave me when she might have preferred to do other things, and (3) to clear away all negative feelings in our relationship so that when she leaves her body she takes with her no resentment towards me and leaves me with no guilt to harbor for the rest of my life.”

        Resist not, say the sages, and all suffering will cease.