Metamorphosis: Suffering

While we seem to come into this world knowing how to attach, how to cling, how to look for and expect the knowable, the recognizable, and the unchanging, some of the oldest spiritual traditions teach us (or try to teach us) that nothing is permanent (Buddhism).  They observe that everything is always in a state of transformation (Taoism).  They call us to see the mystery, wonder and divine in the midst of our lives now (Christianity).  They teach us to cultivate both awe and humility in the face of this ever transforming Universe (Judaism)

We cling to all manner of things.  We cling to people.  We cling to power structures—even really bad ones—because we cling to what we know as always preferable to what we do not know.  Hence, we cling to situations.  We cling to things—material items without which we come to believe we cannot live. The difference in our propensity to cling and and attach to things, people, situations and traditions and the teachings of spiritual traditions teaching that things are always changing and that we should embrace those changes (one way or another) represents a real, human struggle.  This struggle may very well be one way of talking about the spiritual life.

So, are spiritual traditions the legacy of spiritual leaders who simply liked to see people suffer?  Struggle, maybe.  Suffer?  I am convinced not.  In fact, I think that each of these traditions arose as a response to suffering.  We suffer because we wrongly believe that there is a permanency in the world.  We suffer because we want to stand still rather than go with the flow of the Tao.  We suffer because we think that the divine and the Kingdom of God is out there somewhere waiting on us after this life.   We suffer because we think that we are larger than life and that we can ultimately control it.

Not even stone resists the forces of change.  We are born to a life of metamorphosis.  Where are you aware of those forces today?  How will you respond?

Bob Patrick

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