Sensitive to Suffering

by Friends of Godwin


An area where you can develop motivation with the practice is that you can really become sensitive to the suffering of others, and you can also develop a sensitivity to your own suffering. What normally happens with people who are not meditators is that when they experience suffering, they have no method of working with it, they just wallow in that suffering and they continue to suffer in this way. And when they see suffering in others, they don’t have the space, they don’t have the time even to take notice of the suffering of others. So there is a beautiful quality that you develop, where you learn to have compassion for your own suffering and also to have compassion for the suffering of others. And when that happens, in certain situations where you have to act, you will be acting very sharply, very clearly, doing what is necessary in such situations.

So I would suggest that you develop a real motivation for relieving your own suffering and the suffering of others. And you will translate that compassion into action. Please realize that with meditation one does not become inactive, one does not become passive; rather you’ll be acting, but again the quality of acting will be different.

There are two interesting English words which highlight the difference: responding and reacting. So with meditation you learn to develop this quality of responding to situations, acting without reacting. Reaction is an emotional state: when you see suffering in others, you can’t handle it. But here I suggest you learn to develop this beautiful quality of responding, and therefore react less. As we are still human, in certain situations we might be reacting also, but that in itself can be a learning experience – to find out, to enquire, why did I react in that situation?