It wasn’t long ago that I encountered a phrase spoken by Pema Chodron that put things into perspective for me. If you haven’t come across her yet, then you’ll discover that she is a Buddhist teacher, author, mother, and nun with a calm and cheerful presence. Anyways, Pema was talking about some the heavy hitting aspects of life that we all, at times encounter. Sometimes it feels like the hard times never end and that’s where this phrase has meant the most to me. Here it is:
Other people feel this.
Pain has a way, doesn’t it? I think I tend to suffer more when the pain I am experiencing means to me that I am isolated in my experience. Sometimes I want to describe this pain as so unique that no one could understand, and, perhaps, I say that because I think others will notice me more. Maybe they will take more pity on me or give me more space. Perhaps, I get a sense that I am special because my pain is so great. I dive into the details and the nuances of my pain. It’s a dynamic story with a rigorous plot. Funny how my efforts to describe the uniqueness of my pain puts me in a place all by myself, which is the worst place to be when hurting.
Having the sense that ‘other people feel this’ puts the world into a context where you’re not alone. Have you ever thought that the range of human emotions is shared by all people? Goodness, when I think about that, then I consider that I am not alone, which means to me that I’ll be able to be OK even when times are tough or when I am feeling pain. In fact, the pain can be a way for me to connect with others. Talk about transforming my experience!
The next time you are going through a rough patch, try out this meditation where you consider how other people have experienced the feelings you are having now. Walk yourself amongst the many who have come before you. Consider those around you now who walk alongside you. Consider the people who will come after you.
Other people feel this, and we can make it through.