The Buddhists believe that if any sentient soul suffers, we all suffer. In our common belief, however, our illusion is that we are unique discrete individuals. We believe that we each have our own destiny, our own karma, and that we reap what we sow. However we conceive of it, it is often difficult for us to imagine that anything that happens several miles from us, much less hundreds or thousands of miles, can affect us at all. In fact, however, I believe we are all connected through a dynamic energy field which is all-pervasive. Some may call this field G_d, “the universe”, or they may have some other name for this organizing principle, but within our own souls, we feel this sense of oneness to be true.
I a reminded of this as I sort through my feelings about the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake(s). My clients, too, are struggling with their responses to this human horror. Some will put it out of their minds, ignoring this catastrophe as they might ignore the proverbial elephant in the room. Others may donate money as a way to express themselves. A few may boldly strike out, seeking ways to physically participate in the local relief efforts. The underlying commonality in all of these responses is a sense of connection, perhaps even guilt, some might liken it to a “survivor’s guilt”. Like the Buddhist thought, any suffering is our own suffering. Bert Hellinger has suggested that we have a kind of magical thinking about the suffering of others. This thinking suggests that, if we too suffer, then we may lighten the loads of those who are really on the frontlines of tragedy. Is this assumption really true?
The Family Constellation Work has demonstrated that, as a way of connecting to, expressing love to, and assuring our right to belong with our families, we often emulate the suffering of those ancestors who came before. Most often, this emulation of hardships or burdens is assumed unconsciously. This is a child’s unconscious response and needs to be examined. Repeatedly, constellations have shown us that the ancestors do not want us to suffer their difficult fates unnecessarily. We need to ask ourselves, how does creating an illness similar to theirs serve them? How does suffering a similar financial hardship help what came before? How does uprooting yourself as they were forced to do serve them? Does it bring you closer to them? Could it make what happened to them in the past any easier? What do you think your forebears desire for you? How does your unnecessary suffering serve life itself? These are important questions that must be investigated by each of us.
I was deeply moved last evening as I watched the football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Jets. Pierre Garcon, the Wide Receiver for the Colts played what was arguably the best game of his career. He shared that he was inspired to push himself for his friends and family in Haiti. His suffering and holding back would not serve them or life. He was playing his best to honor his heritage. This to me is courage and an appropriate and heroic response to life’s suffering.
So, wake up! Don’t let the pain of others’ hardships weigh you down. Don’t limit yourself in what you can accomplish and enjoy in your life. Do honor to those who came before and make the most of your life! Be heroic and inspire those who may be having a challenging, difficult or painful time. Honor their fates, and honor yours! Allow them and yourself the dignity of life as it comes, and make the most of it. Serve them, serve yourself, serve life!