The Alchemy of Suffering

Well, whispered the king with his dying breath.  “The history of men?”

His friend gazed steadily at him and, as the king was about to die, he said:

“They suffer, Majesty.”

Yes they suffer, at every moment and throughout the world.  Some die when they’ve just been born; some when they’ve just given birth.  Every second, people are murdered, tortured, beaten, maimed, separated from their loved ones.   Others are abandoned, betrayed, expelled, rejected.  Some are killed out of hatred, greed, ignorance, ambition, pride, or envy.   Mothers lose their children, children lose their parents.  The ill pass in never-ending procession through the hospitals.  Some suffer with no hope of being treated, others are treated with no hope of being cured.  The dying endure their pain, and the survivors their mourning.  Some die by hunger, cold, exhaustion;  others are charred by fire, crushed by rocks, or swept away by the waters.

This is true not only for human beings.  Animals devour each other in the forests, the savannahs, the oceans, and the skies.  At any given moment tens of thousands of them are being killed by humans, at the hands of their owners, bearing heavy burdens, in chains their entire lives;  still others are hunted, fished, trapped between teeth of steel, strangled in snares, smothered under nets, tortured for their flesh, their musk, their ivory, their bones, their fur, their skin, thrown into boiling water or flayed alive.

These are not mere words but a reality that is an intrinsic part of our daily lives:  death, the transitory nature of all things, and suffering.  Though we may feel overwhelmed by it all, powerless before so much pain, turning away from it is only indifference or cowardice.  We must be intimately concerned with it, and do everything we possibly can to relieve the suffering.

RICARD, Matthieu.  Happiness – a guide to developing life’s most important skill. New York:  Little, Brown and Company. 2006



Stop Worrying

I was stunned by my failure.  It was almost as if someone had struck me a blow on the head.  My stomach, my insides, began to twist and turn.  For a while I was so worried I could not sleep…

Finally common sense reminded me that worry wasn’t getting me anywhere;  so I figured out a way to handle my problem without worrying.  It worked superbly.   I have been using this same anti-worry technique for more than thirty years.  It is simple.

  1. Ask yourself “what is the worst that can possibly happen?”
  2. Prepare yourself to accept it if you have to.
  3. Then calmly proceed to improve on the worst.

I probably would never have been able to do this [reduce my business loss of $20,000] if I had kept on worrying, because one of the worst features about worrying is that it destroys our ability to concentrate.  When we worry, our minds jump here and there and everywhere, and we lose all power of decision.  However, when we force ourselves to face the worst and accept it mentally, we then eliminate all those vague imaginings and put ourselves in a position in which we are able to concentrate on our problem.

Carnegie, Dale. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Suffolk: The Chaucer Press, 1948.

Quotes … on the spiritual dance of life!

‘Life is hardly ever what it seems, thank God!’   –  Bo Lozoff.

‘An old woman, when asked why she was always cheerful, replied:  “Well, I wear this world like a loose garment!”‘     –   Unknown.

‘All his life a man struggles to reach the top of the ladder, and finally he does – only to discover it’s against the wrong wall!’   –   Unknown.

‘Be careful what you set your heart upon for someday it shall be yours and when I un-set my heart upon something I breathe more deeply and feel more free.  Narrow escape!’    –   Barry Stevens.

JEFFERS, Susan.  End the Struggle and Dance with Life. Great Britain:  Hodder and Stoughton  2005.  252 pp. (non-fiction)

Floods of Tears

But trying to uphold the fantasy that this is the best of all possible worlds is a difficult thing for the mind to do in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  Just reading the daily newspaper should cause the slightest bit of doubt.  Yet I kept holding all the pain within me and around me.  It was as though I was holding my finger in the hole of the proverbial dike, trying to hold back the flood of tears that lived with me.   But the dike would leak every once in a while, as it did when I saw the pain on that little boy’s face as his lunch spilled all over the ground.

One day the dike cracked open and I could no longer hold back the flood.   I realized that all the hunger, greed, illness, unfairness, pain and horror in the world was real.   It was not a fragment of anyone’s imagination or a result of negative thinking.  The despair poured all over me and through me.   What a blow to a well-defended personality.  It took a while to absorb the shock of my despair and restructure my life in a more genuine and life-affirming way.   But it was well worth the effort.

Having made the Land of Tears an integral part of my life so many years ago has had enormous benefits.   In the first place, I’ve joined the human race.   When I watch the struggle of others, I can connect with my own struggle, and we are no longer strangers.   I don’t have to turn away.   I can embrace them and their pain and let them know they are not alone.  I’m a lot kinder and more patient, and that makes me feel good.   I’ve learned to judge others a lot less harshly, remembering that deep within them exists their own Land of Tears, no matter how they may appear on the outside.  What they do and say is just their way of handling hurt.

JEFFERS, Susan.  End the Struggle and Dance with Life. Great Britain:  Hodder and Stoughton  2005.  252 pp. (non-fiction)

Land of Tears

As I sat looking out the window, I noticed a group of schoolchildren walking in twos, heading for the park.   It was a warm sunny day in May and the children’s giggles and chatter put a smile on my face.  Each child carried a lunch bag filled with little treasures that some caring person had placed there earlier that morning.

My reverie was suddenly shattered when one little boy’s lunch bag burst open, spilling all his treasures on the ground.   As I  watched his anguished gaze fixated on the ruined contents of his bag, I had to turn away.   Somewhere deep within me, it hurt too much, and the tears started rolling down my cheeks.   I was surprised at the well of emotion this little incident had released in me.   My reaction seemed totally inappropriate to the scene that had occurred.

What was going on within me?

I realized that this was not the first time I had felt this puzzling depth of emotion over some relatively innocuous scene that I had witnessed.   This was not the first time that some situation outside myself had touched that place within that I had come to call the Land of Tears.   I knew that the deep sadness that I felt had nothing to do with what was happening in my life at the time.   In fact, my life was rich with meaningful work and the love of my family and caring friends.  No, the sadness was not about my personal story, but something much broader, much more significant than that.  Another perplexing part of the puzzle was that not only did sad things touch the Land of Tears, happy things did as well.   Just watching a family reunited at the airport left me sobbing.

What was that about?

Through much soul searching, I eventually found the answers to my questions.  I came to realize that my tears reflected something I had tried very hard to deny – .

JEFFERS, Susan.  End the Struggle and Dance with Life. Great Britain:  Hodder and Stoughton  2005.  252 pp. (non-fiction)

Move More – Eat Less

The value of increased activity goes far beyond its impact upon weight.  It can improve the health of the heart and circulatory system in several different ways, not the least of which is by preventing the build up of extra cholesterol in the bloodstream and by cutting down the amount of fat that’s already there,   It can also improve your state of mind in six important ways;  even a small increase in the amount of physical activity can help to:

  1. Reduce the level of tension and stresses which you experience;
  2. Help you to rest more comfortably and to sleep better;
  3. Help to improve your concentration and enthusiasm for work and play;
  4. Help to improve your mood;
  5. help to reduce your appetite; and
  6. help to improve your self-confidence.

Increased activity can help to reduce tension because tension is, at its root, a physical experience.  As you learned in Chapter 11, by helping muscles to relax the cues that trigger the psychological experience of stress can be minimized.  When you feel less tension, you are likely to find relaxation easier and sleep deeper and more satisfying.  Feeling better rested, you are almost certain to find it easier to concentrate on your work and to meet the challenges of everyday living.

STUART, Dr Richard B., Act Thin – Stay Thin. St Albans, Herts: Granada Publishing Limited. 1978.  222 pp. (non-fiction).

Act Thin – Stay Thin

It is time to catch up and let you know what I have been reading and enjoying …

There was a time when the pavements of every town, were crowded: now strollers are often the exception rather than the rule.  Our playing fields were once jammed with eager sportsmen of all ages:  now many of us spend our Sundays watching TV and the parks are the province of ‘health nuts’ and the young.  We used to wash our clothes by hand, sweep the floor with a broom and fetch in coal for the fire;  now these and dozens of other minor jobs are done by our electronic slaves.  We have refined the art of doing nothing to such a point the we even have mechanical vibrators to tone up muscles that ache from inactivity.  In short, we will spare no expense and apply the heights of our ingenuity to any task that will allow us to push a button rather than walk.  We have reached that unhappy moment when almost no task is too simple to warrant calling upon a machine to do the job for us, and no trip too short to warrant the use of the family car. The result of this energy-sparing way of life is serious.  We have become a nation of heavy-limbed, stiff-jointed armchair dwellers.  As a result, our bellies have broadened and our stamina has waned.

STUART, Dr Richard B., Act Thin – Stay Thin. St Albans, Herts: Granada Publishing Limited. 1978.  222 pp. (non-fiction).

A ‘good daughter’ shall bring no shame on the family..

‘I sat stunned, gripping the photograph between my thumb and forefinger, unable to look away.  I was sitting in my mother’s house, a house to which I’d never imagined I’d return.  It was late in the afternoon, five weeks after my father’s funeral;  I was helping her go through his things and this photograph had fallen from a stack of letters whose Persian script my eyes could no longer follow.   A photograph hidden, forgotten, and now found.

Iranians would likely shrug at such a discovery, life their eyes towards the heavens, and sum up its meaning as qesmet, or destiny.  This was a word I’d hear often in the days following my father’s death.


Over the year The Good Daughter became a taunt, a warning, an omen.   When I spoke immodestly, when I wore my skirts too short or let boys flirt with me, I was not my mother’s real daughter, her Good Daughter.  “If you become like the girls here,”  She’d say.   “I’ll go back to Iran to live with my Good Daughter.”

The good Daughter I knew back then was just a story she’d made up to scare me and make me into a good daughter, too.’

Ms Darznik was born in Tehran and received her Ph.D in English from Princeton University and MFA in Fiction from Bennington College.  This is her first book and has already been translated in eight languages.

This memoir is my recommended read for the month of May.  Enjoy!!

DARZNIK, Jasmin., The Good Daughter.  London:  William Heinemann.  2011.  324 pp. (non-fiction)

Our Bright Promise

“For the rest of history, for the most of us, our bright promise will always fall short of being actualised;  it will never earn us bountiful sums of money or beget exemplary objects or organisations.  It will remain no more than a hope carried over from childhood, or a dream entertained as we drive along the motorway and feel our plans hovering above a wide horizon.  Extraordinary resilience, intelligence and good fortune are needed to redraw the map of our reality, while on either side of the summits of greatness are arrayed the endless foothills populated by the tortured celebrities of achievement.

“Most of us stand poised at the edge of brilliance, haunted by the knowledge of our proximity, yet still demonstrably on the wrong side of the line, dealing with reality undermined by a range of minor yet critical psychological flaws (a little too much optimism, an unprocessed rebelliousness, a fatal impatience or sentimentality) …”

“… I left Symon’s company newly aware of the unthinking cruelty discreetly coiled within the magnanimous bourgeois assurance that everyone can discover happiness through love and work.  It isn’t that these two entities are invariably incapable of delivering fulfilment, only that they almost never do so.”

DeBOTTON, Alain. The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, Penguin UK, 2010, 336p (non fiction)

Book – My January Read

“I recognised my desire to submit to the report’s conclusion in the hope of quelling my doubts about my future.  At the same time, the report failed to inspire any real degree of confidence and indeed, the more I dwelt on it, the more it seemed to signal some of the limits of career counselling as a whole.”

“It struct me as strange and regrettable that in our society something as prospectively life-altering as the determination of a person’s vocation had for the most part been abandoned to marginalised therapists practising their trade from garden-extensions.  What should have been one of the most admired professions on earth was struggling to attain the status open to a travel agent.”

DeBOTTON, Alain. The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, Penguin UK, 2010, 336p (non fiction)

Work makes us. Without it we are at a loss; in work we hope to have a measure of control over our lives. Yet for many of us, work is a straitjacket from which we cannot free ourselves.

This book is the suggested read for the month of January.   If you are interested, in the topics of work, career, manufacturing and entrepreneurship, you will enjoy this read.