From the May 26, 2020 Mukti Teaching Series Re-Visioning Suffering, Part 4.
When I speak about optional suffering, I’m speaking about our relationship to difficulty and hardship. It’s largely the inner narrative and stance, like an energetic posturing with what is happening. It can manifest as a push and pull of resistance and aversion, a kind of organizing dualistically with respect to what should or shouldn’t be—this is right or this is wrong, this is good or this is bad. At one level, that perspective may have relative value. As it concretizes in our system, these narratives or conclusions can often become rigid or be on overdrive to a point where they start to create a great sense of division with life or others, or division within ourselves and different parts of ourselves.
That concretization goes counter to our movement toward well-being, our movement to embrace life and to really live life to the best that we can in a vitally engaging, embracing way. That inner division can also bring about a sense of separation and isolation, and a kind of forgetting of our nature that is of oneness, that is indicative of the whole of humanity. Even larger, our nature is the whole of this play of consciousness that we see before us, which includes the seer and the seeing itself—not only through these eyes that have been bearing witness to our whole life, but also through the seeing eyes of the heart, and that which would want to always say yes to the embrace of life.
Some of the optional suffering is based on two primary movements. One is the forgetting of our nature as Spirit, especially in times when we concretize around events in our lives and move into dualistic positions that are for or against, pushing and pulling, toward right or wrong or good or bad. This forgetting can feel like it leaves us bereft of the inherent fullness and repleteness of our nature as the divine, and it can lead to greater entrenchment in an ego identification that’s really founded upon a sense of lack and something being wrong, and our view being that of problem.
In large part, one of the two movements that this optional suffering revolves around is this forgetting of our Self that is always and ever okay, that nature of what you are that is eternally present. It’s been eternally present, bearing witness to your whole life, but even more deeply to become known and realized is this nature of the eternal that has the capacity of the unconditional that is present and shows up, you could say to personify it, for every expression and event of our lives. It has never been harmed at that level of our essential being. It’s sometimes called the unborn or the undying, the uncreated, in the sense that it’s not defined by our narrative of birth, life, suffering, death.
This forgetting of our nature is not your typical forgetting, like forgetting your keys or something of material value. It can be an entering into the identification of our nature as a separate ego or as something that’s lacking, and it can be a departure from being firmly rooted in our essential being that has never been lacking.
There have been parts of this teaching series where I’ve been pointing back and back and back to the sense of what is prior to the narrative, the words—what is even behind the sense of witness, or that sense of witness softening its position into a general awareness. As our bodies become more still, inquiry or meditation may seem to open and fill out our body awareness, the awareness of our entire being, and in a sense, anchor this pure unboundaried consciousness into boundaried form and give it a home here in our incarnation.
The second movement that I believe largely contributes to this optional suffering isn’t so much a forgetting of our essential nature and that knowingness of being of our nature as Spirit, but it’s a tendency to not act upon our knowingness of being, our inner knowings, those tugs on our conscience, those tugs at our heart that are guiding us or trying to get our attention to attend to things that we’re not attending to. Some of this optional suffering is a kind of pushing aside or giving second place—or third or fourth place—to some of these things that we know are deeply important, and yet we might be choosing other things first.
It can be just daily things on the smallest level. Let’s say it’s physical suffering that we might be going through, and there are those little tugs on our conscience to get up and stretch in the morning, or hydrate more, or not eat this particular thing, or not be on our devices so much, or to connect more with people, or whatever it might be. We may have many knowings of what would bring us greater physical well-being, for example, that we may keep setting aside and not paying heed to. And that can bring about a lot of unnecessary difficulty that could be avoided if we acted on what we are conscious of—even if it seems to be just outside the forefront of our consciousness—when there’s a commitment to listen more deeply in life and to act upon these movements to guide us. Then things can go a lot better.
This is not only something that plays out on this basic simple level of self-care, but also, navigating in this way really leads us to a greater sense that when we care for ourselves, we’re caring for the whole. And when we care for things outside of ourselves, it also is supportive to our own nature, in its myriad of levels of expression—of Spirit, of soul, of purpose.