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Joyful Suffering

Joyful Suffering


When I started writing this post three weeks ago, I suffered so much that I had to let it go. Dought like how can a privi­leged white Jewish Israeli living in Vienna writing about suffer­ing didn’t let me go until I realised which part of me was busy sabotag­ing myself by compar­ing my suffer­ing with others. This thought is rooted in my Israeli identity, respon­si­ble for the suffer­ing and grief of millions of Pales­tini­ans every day and this thought was ampli­fied by looking at the situa­tion in Ukraine and the massive devas­ta­tion happen­ing right now to millions of people. Still, the topic couldn’t let me go. After I realised the root of this thought, I could come back to the writing without trying to cover the enormous suffer­ing of all human­ity in one blog.

“Suffer­ing exists.” — Siddhartha Gautama lived circa 500 BCE in the plain of the Ganges, India.

Siddartha Gautama, known as the Budha, the one who is awakened from suffer­ing, empha­sised the existence of suffer­ing and brought it into the light of human conscious­ness. His obser­va­tion that suffer­ing exists is the Buddhist’s bedrock of the religion built around his teachings.

Life & suffer­ing — an all-inclu­sive trip.

No matter which tribe, family, nation­al­ity, skin colour, or body you were born into, suffer­ing is part of the deal. No matter how much money or posses­sions you hold, suffer­ing doesn’t skip the rich or the poor. Suffer­ing is a process of maturity, self-learn­ing, and realis­ing our humanity’s being aspect.

Many faces to suffering

Suffer­ing doesn’t have to be a signif­i­cant loss or a deep depres­sion. It can be a slight irrita­tion or a disturb­ing thought that can affect our mood and health without being aware. All humans face the losses of loved ones at some point in life, and it can be very challeng­ing for many people, especially when it comes too early or as a surprise. Enormous suffer­ing can lead to a big awaken­ing, but I intend to write on the every­day Sisyphus’s unaware states of suffer­ing in this article. The daily suffer­ing leads us to complain about life and become restless and unhappy.

The moment we are aware that we are suffer­ing and admit it to ourselves is when we start our path towards conscious living with less suffering.

Out of comfort zone

Life tends to push us out of our comfort zone into challeng­ing situa­tions, but challeng­ing doesn’t have to lead to suffer­ing. On the contrary, many people who faced consid­er­able challenges in life found their strength and realised their deeper selves.

My grand­fa­ther lost his family in Natzy-Germany, except his young sister and left for a newborn country in the middle east at 16. Such a signif­i­cant loss can lead to deep suffer­ing at such a young age, but I never saw a glimpse of it in him. He was my symbol of optimism and bright­ness. On the other hand, I know people who have every­thing that life can offer but still complain and suffer until the end of their lives.

All life forms face challenges, from the little plant in the garden to the most signif­i­cant African elephant. The differ­ence between us and other species is that we humans have devel­oped a mind that points mainly at what is missing, empha­sises negative commen­taries, and trans­forms challenges into suffering.

The roots of suffering:


It’s hard to realise that we are all made of the same molecules and atoms, and there­fore we are all connected on a deeper dimen­sion. But the fact that we experi­ence life in many forms of separa­tion rather than unity brings fear, loneli­ness and suffering.

We experi­ence separa­tion from objects and other life forms on physi­cal, mental and emotional levels. We are born into a body separate from other bodies, especially our mom. Nobody can tell exactly how we feel or what we see or think.

But the most subtle and profound level of suffer­ing comes from the illusion of separa­tion from the source, our deeper selves, and our souls. And many people are unaware that this is the deeper cause of their life’s unful­fill­ment and suffering.


The more I am identi­fied with my beauti­ful, muscu­lar body, the more likely I will suffer when it gets old or wick. The more I am identi­fied with my thoughts. The more likely I will be at the mercy of my uncon­scious mind, which will affect my mental-emotional state and general well-being.

The more I identify with my name, job title, posses­sions, social status, religion or nation­al­ity, the more I will likely suffer when any of this is changed or gone. The stronger the identi­fi­ca­tion, the stronger the ego, the stronger the ego, the bigger the suffering.


Resist­ing what is, trying to change or control situa­tions, and navigat­ing reality to your mind’s ideas or plans leads to suffer­ing. It’s like having a constant war against life, attack­ing problems, concerns, people and ourselves daily. Control is oppos­ing evolu­tion, said Mahar­ishi Mahesh Yogi in one of his talks in the early 70th. When we try to control life, we are out of its natural flow and in the grip of suffering.

Where aware­ness begins suffer­ing subsides.

When we are aware that we are suffer­ing, we can also be aware that we resist the present moment. When we stop resist­ing what is, a signif­i­cant relief arises, and suffer­ing is most likely reduced or even ends. When we allow ourselves to accept every moment we breathe, the war against life stops. When the fight against life stops, suffer­ing can finally end, and peace arrives.

Peace is the death penalty for the ego.

If we have an overview of the last hundred years, the people who created the most devas­tat­ing wars in the world are ego and power-driven. When aware­ness brings peace to any situa­tion, the ego will fight for his life against it. When the ego fight, aware­ness witnesses quietly and still. When I notice the war the ego creates inside me when situa­tions are challeng­ing in my life, I can choose to bring my atten­tion to the ego-driven nature of my egoic mind or to connect to the still point of my awareness.

Yes, for challenges, no for suffering.

I love challenges because they connect me to my deeper self. They are my best teach­ers of trust, surren­der and grati­tude. Challenges don’t have to be climb­ing Everest. It is enough to try to take your three kids to a park without losing ‘it’ or losing your awareness.

Theatre, my old love, dresses challenges in costumes, names, charac­ters, dramatic or comic situa­tions and puts a spotlight on them. The aesthetic distance between the viewer and the stage allows the observer to raise aware­ness of the possi­bil­i­ties of action and expand its’ emotional capacity.
In comedy, the leading charac­ter will suffer in such a way that will bring the audience to consid­er­able laugh­ter. In a drama, the main charac­ter will act in such a way that will inspire the audience with overcom­ing challenges. A good dramatic actor will play the action, while a good comic actor will play the action but empha­sise the emotion. The emotions in a comedy are an expres­sion of unaware­ness, profound uncon­scious­ness, or stupid­ity, leading to the immense suffer­ing of the main charac­ter and the great laugh­ter of the audience.

It’s easy to notice suffer­ing and unaware­ness in others, especially when empha­sised on stage. It can bring us to tears of laugh­ter to see the ridicule of others. But regard­ing our suffer­ing, we can suffer for years in a not satis­fy­ing job or uncon­scious relation­ships and get used to the state of suffer­ing in our routine, not realis­ing that we, like a comic charac­ter in a play, are also suffer­ing, not being aware of it. When we are aware that we are suffer­ing, we can choose to surren­der to the situa­tion or act as the dramatic actor to change it or remove ourselves from it.

Conscious suffer­ing

Recog­nis­ing that we are suffer­ing is the first step toward relief and a gateway to a life free of suffer­ing. Once we acknowl­edge that we are suffer­ing, it somehow loses its power on us. Eckhart Tolle names it conscious suffer­ing, suffer­ing with aware­ness. When I am aware that I am suffer­ing, I try to open my eyes and see the situa­tion. I try to separate the stories of my mind from the reality that is unfold­ing. Then I take a moment of pause that gives me more space from the situa­tion. The more intense the case, the more I would try to inten­sify my presence aware­ness. The more room I have within, the more capac­ity I have. I can find creativ­ity and an open heart even in challenges.

Surren­der­ing — a key to ending suffering.

Six months ago, my five-year-old son started to call me every night and demanded that I will spend the rest of the night in his bed. At first, I thought it was just another phase that would be gone soon, but this turned out to be a long tiring one. After waking up every night several times, I realised that I better stay in his bed till the morning. I got through all stages of suffer­ing, from denial to frustra­tion and anger, and didn’t know what to do. Trying to change the reality didn’t work, and every talk or action regard­ing it just made this phase longer and more annoying.

At some point, I accepted it. I realised that it is not natural to sleep alone at this age. No animal puts pappies in a separate bed or room. And because our bed has been busy with the twin girls for the last year and a half, coming to our bed is not an option. He is afraid, and I am his best address of comfort and safety — the moment I accepted the situa­tion, the suffer­ing reduced. I still feel tired and sometimes frustrated, but it is not with such a strong identi­fi­ca­tion. I even started to enjoy waking up with him in the morning, our relation­ship improved, and we are more connected and bonded than before.

Now, I am waiting that he will let me go and sleep the whole night through. Till then, I will try to allow myself to consciously find joy in the suffer­ing and accept it till it changes.

1227 855 Idan Meir