The Fire of Suffering

It’s that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you say goodbye to the one you love or when you massively fail at something important to you. As the blood rushes to your ears and chills settle their way down your spine, you dread the future suffering that the situation at hand will surely cause. It is this precise feeling that was rekindled somewhere deep inside of me today as I was listening to Eckhart Tolle’s second book, A New Earth. But that rekindling didn’t bring with it the same pain I once felt, it only reminded me what that pain truly meant. 

In all of our lives we go through some sort of suffering… And for each of us it is different. A family member is diagnosed with a life threatening illness, an old friend dies, or there’s a pink slip on our desk on some dreary Monday morning… Whatever it may have been for you, at the time it may have seemed like the worse thing that could have happened. Most recently for me, my suffering began at an airport terminal in San Francisco, as I said goodbye to my closest loved ones, along with everything that I had ever known. Of course, coming here to Korea was a very exciting step for me, but the suffering that came along with the goodbyes honestly still lingers even to this day… The fire still burns.. 

On the other hand, I have changed a great deal since I have been here. I have become more spiritual, started taking better care of my body, started reading more, and enriched many relationships in my life. The suffering that I have endured has brought about great positive change in me. And so, when I heard the following quote in Tolle’s book today, I felt compelled to share it and its meaning to me here: 

“The fire of suffering is the light of consciousness.”

When he uses the word consciousness, he does not mean it in the conventional sense. Instead, it is representative of an alert awareness of our “being” and the “being” of all things around us. Everything on this earth has a consciousness… We all came from the same place. Whether you decide to call it God, the Universe, atoms, or Bugs Bunny, really makes no difference. The point is that we are all human beings, not human doings. It is the life force within us that unites us and makes us who we are. And it is the vibrations we give off to others that determine the course of our life. We are not individual boats floating on a vast ocean… We are the ocean, and our life stories are the boats. 

Artwork by my beautifully talented girlfriend.

The suffering that burns within all of us is fueled by those seemingly terrible things that happen in our life situations. Have you ever known someone who survived cancer and went on to live a life of great purpose and strength? Has the passing of someone close to you ever helped you see what truly matters to you in life and therefore live a better one? Has the personal suffering you went through after a great failure ever motivated you to pursue your next goal with such voraciousness that you went well beyond achieving it? If any of these situations strike a chord for you, then you are living proof of the fact that the fire of suffering is the light of consciousness. 

THE TAKEAWAY:  It is easy for us to get caught up in the pain and self pity that suffering carries with it. I know probably 95% of my life thus far has been a testament to that fact. But when we step outside of ourselves for just a moment, and look back, it becomes obvious the we have a choice whenever suffering is conferred upon us. We have the choice to allow the fire to burn until it consumes us… or we have the choice to use it to light our way. Now that you know my answer, I will ask you the same question: How will you use your suffering? 

4 thoughts on “The Fire of Suffering

  1. Your timing is perfect. Last night i drove back from LA. After spending the whole day with my mom and her brother and sister as they shared stories about their mom. My grandma was taken of all of her medications and the hospice people have her only on morphine as we watch her slip away. We all prayed and hoped that they pain would stop for all of us. But in that moment it was the pain that reminded us of all the beautiful memories of this Amazing women who has been our family matriarch for over 92 years. Oh how it still hurts so much to see her suffer through her final days. And yet i have never loved her so much than i do right now. Please pray for Dolores Cuellar’s soul. Her name means pain is spanish and we all prayed that GOD would change her name from Dolores to Mercy or Grace!

    • I’m so happy that our stories were able to connect at this important time for you. I am very sorry to hear about what your grace is going through, but I know that the time you have spent with her must have been invaluable to her and you. I will pray for her, and for you. Thank you for sharing this story with me here Alex. Peace be with you always.

  2. Hi Chad,

    It’s been a while since I’ve read your blogs. Joan and I think of you and Jane (or should I say “Jaw Neigh”) often and remember spending the evening with you guys and your folks at our place in Encinitas. All is well with us, but we have too many irons in the fire now. We’re working to cut back on projects so we have more time for personal activities and hanging out with our friends. We’ll be back down in the same place this year between 10 September and 10 October so if you guys are around, maybe we can all get together again.

    Our best to you guys,

    Dave and Joan

    • Thank you for the message Dave and Joan! We both often fondly look back at the time we spent with you two. It was great!

      Anyway, we will be moving back to Korea in August so we will be unable to see the two of you when you are down South. I hope that we can still keep in touch and when your time frees up, I\’d love to form some sort of mentorship relationship with you two. I wish both of you the best and congratulations on your decision to cut back! I know how overwhelming it can get.

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