“All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming.” – Helen Keller
What we are paying attention to in any given moment becomes very important to us. The more attention we give it, the more significant it becomes, overriding our attention to other things. If we are thinking about an upcoming vacation, it brings anticipation and takes us away from our current situation. If we are worrying about something, it brings anxiety and also takes us away from our present moment, one in which there may not be anything to worry about. The more attention we give a thought, the more influence that thought has on our minds. When our attention is focused on something, our awareness is limited to those thoughts where our attention is focused. When we are anticipating our upcoming vacation, is difficult to recognize the joys in front of us today. When we are caught up in worry, it is difficult to be aware of all we have to be grateful for in this moment. Understanding this, it is important to remember that whatever we’re focusing on is never the whole picture and we can develop the ability to redirect our attention, allowing us to gain perspective and cultivate healthier and more beneficial attitudes as we engage in our day.
Sometimes we can become overwhelmed by our personal sufferings or the sufferings we see in the world. The more attention we give the suffering, the more hopeless we can feel. We can fall into unproductive attitudes and habits such as blame, apathy, despair, or anger. As today’s quote points out, the world is full of suffering. In fact, all of us (and everyone you’ll ever meet) have had our share of suffering and will continue to have more. We have also all had healing, joy, and deep connections formed from bonds of the shared experience of overcoming struggles and hardships.
It is important to identify suffering and empathize with others. How else could we overcome it? However, if we focus only on the suffering, believing we are simply victims of it, we cannot see the compassion all around us. It is this compassion that empowers us to overcome suffering. With compassion, we recognize and understand that all of us have challenges and tragedies throughout our lives. We also have joys, opportunities, and resources that far outnumber those challenges and tragedies. Compassion does not allow or ignore suffering, nor does it allow us to let the suffering we encounter overshadow the overwhelming goodness and strength in all of us. If we direct our attention beyond the difficult moments we might be attending to, we can see the inspiration and strength to overcome them.
I invite you to direct your attention to all the compassion you see. Try to be aware of and notice how you and others help alleviate suffering, even in the smallest of ways.
The above is an excerpt from one the daily emails sent to the members of the Mindful Life Community. If you found it meaningful, you may want to explore our community and consider joining.