by David Rothstein.
Lent brings me a heightened awareness of suffering, my own and the world’s. Sitting in morning meditation recently, negative thoughts drifted in: this world is truly an exile from the freedom and peace of the spirit world. Thinking of the many limitations and pains of this life, a man I know comes to mind, who as a child was abused and neglected by his father and mother (and how were they in turn hurt during their lives?). He has sought help in many ways but his trauma lives on and he pours out his story often to many people. My heart becomes heavy and my eyes well with tears.
When I listen to this man, I realize I can’t help him, can’t say anything to help him fix his trauma and get over it. But I want to. And he’s just one—if it’s not his kind of suffering, then it’s the suffering of addiction, disease, loss and grief, discrimination, or feeling enslaved to a job for money. I feel the heaviness of it all, my cup of sadness filling up.
Then I keep sitting and realize something has poured out of me, and something else is now filling me up. I feel and see an inner glow. From out of nowhere peace and bliss fill me. The mercy of God.
Nothing has changed. The world is the same, and so am I—or maybe not. I do feel changed now, lifted a little closer to the spirit realm, and I try to linger there in meditation. Maybe this is the best help we can get and give for suffering in this life.
Maybe there is something to “pouring out our sorrows.” Like the man who suffered abuse, his cup of sorrow fills up and needs pouring out every so often. What a gift we can give each other and ourselves, to listen as the cup of sorrow is poured out, to validate it and nothing more. It may fill up again, but maybe next time not so much. Because there’s something about the act of pouring it out before God or another and having it heard. It clears us out. And in that empty space can come the mercy of God: peace, greater love and compassion, bliss.
I know now that the other side of suffering is bliss, a foretaste of the spirit world, and our own path of healing and growth in this one. I see also how important for me are silence and meditation to this path, allowing space for both sorrow and the bliss of God to come in.
David is a spiritual director at Loyola. Read his bio here.