A few days ago I finished the book I had been reading (Find the Good, Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer by Heather Lende). Not knowing which book to start next, and having two of special interest that I recently purchased for our local mindfulness center library, I decided to do something I don’t usually do and started both books at the same time. One of which is Sister Dang Nghiem’s book entitled Mindfulness as Medicine, the other is Silence by Thich Nhat Hanh, both of which have been published this year.
From Mindfulness as Medicine:
“As spiritual practitioners, we train our mind to anchor itself in our breath and body in our daily lives. Whenever a situation arises, however pleasant or unpleasant it is, we already have the capacity and skills to dwell in this awareness, which enables us to go through the process as peacefully and calmly as possible. This is the foundation for a healthy future. Thus, we see that pain is inevitable, but suffering is truly optional.”
As I was reading Mindfulness as Medicine this morning, accompanied by a cup of tea, I was reminded about the importance of going through difficulties and then sharing about them from a personal, honest, and constructive perspective. It is often more beneficial to hear from someone who’s going or gone through the same type of difficulty as we are, rather than listen to someone talk about experiences they haven’t personally dealt with. For instance, in the case of Mindfulness as Medicine, Sister Dang Nghiem’s book holds more relevance and authenticity on the subject of using mindfulness to help nourish the body and mind since she deals with a chronic illness and is a devoted mindfulness practitioner (and also happens to have been a doctor before becoming a nun).
Going through difficulties allows us the opportunity to better relate with others encountering the same challenges. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to truly understand chronic pain, for example, to those having never experienced it. The same is true for knowing what it means to go through a divorce, losing a close loved one to suicide, enduring childhood abuse or sexual assault, returning home from serving in the military, living in a war-torn country, being homeless, dealing with the disease of addiction, or spending years behind bars. Of course we can empathize and practice the art of deep looking in order to understand the nature of others’ suffering, but we can only apply this to a certain degree, having never personally gone through their particular situation. This is why it’s important for those having undergone hardship and struggle, those who’ve gained some kind of perspective, insight, or wisdom from their experience, to share their stories – to nourish and support those who are on the same path, enduring the same hardships.
We are more apt to feel support and make progress in the transformation of our suffering when we connect with others whom we can relate to – especially when we encounter someone who has learned something from what they’ve gone through and can relay it in a useful and valuable way, such as Sister Dang Nghiem.
There are so many wonderful beings on this planet with us – those who are reaching out to help others. Let us never struggle alone, for there is always someone out there that knows just what we’re going through and is willing to offer support. Let us not withhold our own stories of transforming suffering, so that we may lend a hand when it’s most needed.