Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the few modern self-help movements that has the honesty to tell people that they are narcissists and selfish! Others dance around such an unflattering but obvious truth.


It is finally all about one thing. What are you going to do with your pain? Are you going to blame others for it? Are you going to think that it has to be fixed? As the Buddha is supposed to have said, “Pain is part of the deal”. No one lives on this earth without it. It is the great teacher, although none of us want to admit it. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it in some form. Take that as an absolute. If we do not learn this all-important spiritual lesson, at least one, maybe all, of the following things will happen:


1. We will become inflexible, blaming and petty as we grow older.

2. We will need other people to hate in order to expel our inner negativity.

3. We will play the victim in some form as a means of false power.

4. We will spend much of our life seeking security and status as a cover-up for lack of a substantial sense of self.

5. We will pass on our deadness to our family, children, and friends.


I am afraid that we have become a very naïve about pain and suffering in America. “I don’t have time for the pain,” as the commercials say. Primal cultures were not so naïve, maybe because they had no choice. Advil and Excedrin cannot and dare not take all our pain away. One still sees the nobility of hardship in many poor countries and in ancient cultures like that of India. Most aboriginal peoples put us to shame with their simple happiness, patience, and endurance in the presence of difficulties. By trying to handle all suffering through willpower, denial, medication, or even therapy, we have forgotten something that should be obvious:  we do not handle suffering; suffering handles us – in deep and mysterious ways that become the very matrix of life and especially new life. Only suffering and certain kinds of awe lead us into genuinely new experiences. All the rest is merely the confirmation of old experience.


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