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Stage One - Suffering

The 12 Stages of Healing

Whether you’re suffering from physical, mental or emotional pain and are seeking to get on the healing path, we invite you to read our latest blog series, ‘The 12 Stages of Healing.” The series starts with Stage 1, which is Suffering and ends with Stage 12, Community. Our doctors share their wisdom and encouragement to help you move through each stage toward achieving the healing you seek. Each blog concludes with a special breathing exercise and affirmation for that stage of healing.

holding handsFrom our earliest years, we are trained to avoid, control, modify, or otherwise escape suffering. Whether the suffering is related to physical pain, a threatening disease, humiliation, the loss of a loved one, the fear of failure, or the lack of fulfillment, most of us would agree that suffering is certainly among the least-desired and most unpleasant experiences we go through.

Suffering is often linked with pain, yet they are not the same thing. Pain is an awareness of discomfort on a physical, emotional, mental or spiritual level. By contrast, suffering involves the experience of dishonoring, denying or alienating our “true self”, the core of our being, the wellspring of our awareness and self-expression. This dishonoring is often activated by painful experiences and our reactions to them, involving a gradual process of numbing, armoring and escape, thereby distorting our perception. Over time, this distorted view of ourselves and the world around us sets the stage for more suffering.

At this stage, a person in pain views their illness as a possession: “I am a person with cancer.” A person who suffers views their reality as inseparable from the condition or situation; they identify with it: “I am a cancer victim.” In other words, there is no difference between the sufferer and the source of their suffering.

Like suffering, pain cannot simply be avoided no matter how hard we try; it is a part of being human. If we are alive, we must feel pain as a built-in warning mechanism or wake-up call that something needs to change, such as the pain we feel when touching a hot stove alerting us the need to withdraw our hand. During suffering, however, we experience an inner feeling that something is very wrong with our lives and that there is nothing we can do about it. The outer event activates a raw place deep inside our being, leaving us feeling paralyzed, helpless, victimized, or obsessed with getting rid of the cause of our suffering.

Developing a Sense of Self

Our sense of self is the essential part of our nature that makes us different from everyone else. It is not based so much on all that has happened in our lives, as it is on what we select, imagine and remember. These memories include our relationships with our various family members, teachers and friends, and the wide variety of traumas, challenges and joys we experience as a part of being human.

In Stage One we are not yet whole enough to recognize a distinction between our sense of self and our suffering, as suffering is a natural by-product of a distorted sense of self. For instance, many of us base our identity on parts of our bodies, such as our face, hair, breasts etc. Thus, suffering takes place when anything happens to this part. A woman who loses a breast due to breast cancer may suffer intensely because she feels she is no longer a woman. But in reality, this loss does not make her any less of a woman at all. It is when she identifies with the breast as an essential part of who she is that suffering is bound to happen.

That is why traumatic events in life can trigger suffering for many people. However, through such suffering we often become aware that we were living an illusion we were previously not conscious of: the illusion that my marriage is me, that my full head of hair is me, that my breast is me, etc. And as long as we consider the illusion to be real, we will continue to suffer. Events involving illness or loss may cause pain in varying degrees, but our level of suffering is always related to how we perceive these events in our lives. Suffering is our inner wisdom reminding us that we need to alter our perspectives.

A Time to Surrender

During Stage One, a practitioner can either try to treat the disease or symptom or chose to work with the person who is suffering. But there is nothing a health practitioner can do to stop the suffering except to help the person who is going through it. The actual suffering is an internal spiritual or mental emergency and cannot be effectively treated or cured.

Every cell of the body has a consciousness of its own, and every cell shares the consciousness of the body’s community of cells. When we are suffering then a regional or distorted consciousness is calling for our attention. We resist suffering when we try to deny it, escape it, intellectually understand the significance of it, or otherwise distract ourselves from directly experiencing it. There is an interference in the connection between your infinite self and the way you are living. You need to amplify the voice within that is attempting to tell you to wake up.

Stage One involves surrendering to the suffering we feel without trying to escape from it. When you simply allow suffering to happen, an important shift in consciousness takes place. As you stop fighting and give over to the suffering, it envelopes you, it encases you. The most appropriate response at this time is to stop thinking about its causes. By merging with the rhythm, vibration or essence of suffering — without trying to figure out what to do, without making ourselves out to be right or wrong — all we experience is the loss, the pain, the injury, but not the suffering.

Stage One Exercise

Lie on your back or be seated. Put both hands on your upper chest, palms facing downward, and breathe slowly through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe only deep enough to feel your breath meet the rhythm of your chest rising and falling. Continue this for one or two minutes. If you find it painful or uncomfortable, or if this exercise brings up intense emotions, just continue for as long as you can until you need to stop.

Now do the same exercise with your hands placed at the bottom of your breastbone and breathe the same way. Then place your hands on your abdomen (near your navel) and repeat. Remember to breathe into the area where your hands are placed.

If you are in the stage of suffering, you may find it physically difficult to firmly touch one of those regions and breathe into it. For those who may have unresolved Stage One issues, there may even be a high emotional charge or response during this exercise. If it is very difficult to do in one of the regions, move to a different region that feels more comfortable. Let the peace you experience there spread to the region where you felt discomfort.

Stage One Declaration

When the breathing exercises are almost complete, make the following declarations to affirm your movement with Stage One:

“Right now, I am helpless.”

“Nothing works at this time.”

There’s Magic In A Healthy Spine!

The 12 Stages of Healing

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12


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