Yogic Path

How To Suffer Consciously & Live A Meaningful Life

Updated on 5 May 2020 • 5 minute read
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“The moment you see meaning in your suffering you can mold it into an achievement… 

Mold your predicament into an accomplishment… 

On a human level, you can turn your tragedies into a personal triumph.” 

– Dr. Viktor Frankl, Neurologist, Psychiatrist, & Holocaust Survivor

Pain and suffering are universal and a non-negotiable part of human beings’ experience.

Maybe you’re experiencing or have experienced a heart-wrenching loss right now.

Or maybe you or a loved one just got a diagnosis that has brought you to your knees.

 

Whatever the form of the breakdown/difficult situation you’re navigating know that no matter how bad it feels right now there is a way to the other side. 

We can transform breakdowns into breakthroughs by learning to navigate chaotic waters with a sense of purpose and a sense of meaning.

The purpose of life isn’t to escape our problems or make them disappear.

A life of purpose (a good life) comes from learning to withstand pain with awareness and conscious suffering.

 

True life satisfaction isn’t about glory, money, accolades; it’s about how many times you managed to turn your suffering into personal growth, self-improvement, and meaningfulness. 

That’s the real gold and every challenge offers us the gift of this opportunity.

(Source: Prof. Dr. Franz Vesely CC BY-SA 3.0 de, via Wikimedia Commons)

One of the best examples of truly living with meaning and suffering consciously is Dr. Viktor Frankl.

Besides being a neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor, Dr. Frankl is the founder of Logotherapy, sometimes referred to as the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy.”

He is also the best-selling author of “Man’s Search for Meaning,” which chronicles his own life in Nazi a concentration camp and near-death moments. (Highly recommended.)

 

In his own words:

“Let me explain why I have employed the term “logotherapy” as the name for my theory. 

Logos is a Greek word which denotes “meaning.” 

Logotherapy, focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man’s search for such a meaning. 

According to logotherapy, this striving to find meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man…

This meaning is unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which will satisfy his own will to meaning.” 

He deemed his life worth living & dedicated himself to help others…

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. 

In that space is our power to choose our response. 

In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

– Viktor Frankl

Frankl experienced unimaginable suffering the years he spent as a camp prisoner.

His entire family with the exception of his sister were taken to concentration camps.

This included his pregnant wife, who he would never see alive again.

He spent years being cruelly physically and psychologically tortured.

He was starved and denied basic needs such as clothing.

Made to work in the harshest of conditions for hours on end.

Beaten for no reason.

 

And yet, he found meaning in all of it.

He took his pain and suffering and used it as fuel. 

He learned from it and took what he learned and created his life’s work, which has touched millions, even now after his death.

What if you could do the same?

 

How To Give Your Life More Meaning:

“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche

Instead of resenting our situation and stewing in a “why me” loop we can interrupt the pattern and ask different, more empowering questions:

 

What can I learn from this? 

What is this experience forcing me to look at that I have been ignoring or avoiding?

What are the specific ways in which this is helping me become stronger?

How can I redirect my energy to use these specific challenges to help me grow?

How can I use what’s happening to increase my self-esteem? 

What inspires me? 

What do I want to dedicate my life to? 

What do I want my life’s purpose to be? 

What’s meaningful to me? 

How can I incorporate that to give my life meaning in daily life? 

How can I invest more mental, emotional, and physical energy into living my life’s purpose? (i.e.: read more self-help spiritual books)

 

We can redirect our energy to use these specific challenges to help us:

1) Get more aligned with our purpose

2) Adopt habits and lifestyle changes that enable more wellness, wellbeing, and dynamic equilibrium for the body, mind, and spirit.

 

Make Your “Why” Bigger Than Yourself:

“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. 

What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”  

 – Dr. Viktor Frankl

When we create meaning in every life area, and, we make our overall existence mean something bigger, we can begin to perceive our situation differently.

When we’re inspired by something bigger than ourselves we can become internally stronger.

This strength seeps into every cell and every fiber of our body.

 

Frankl says:

“If architects want to strengthen a decrepit arch, they increase the load which is laid upon it, for thereby the parts are joined more firmly together.”  

(source: giphy)

Like a diamond sustains immense pressure to become more itself, you too experience increased pressure or an ‘increase’ in your load to help you become more yourself. 

Your authentic, fully expressed, true self.

In this way, any kind of challenging increase in your load ‘joins every part of you more firmly together,” so you can be more integrated, equilibrated, and fulfilled.

We all experience the load, what changes is the form. 

 

Here’s one last quote by Frankl:

“We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation when facing a fate that cannot be changed. 

For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. 

When we are no longer able to change a situation— just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer— we are challenged to change ourselves… In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.”

 

Conscious Awareness & Suffering:

“The ego says ‘I shouldn’t have to suffer,’ and that thought makes you suffer so much more.

It is a distortion of the truth, which is always paradoxical. 

The truth is that you need to say yes to suffering before you can transcend it.”

– Eckhart Tolle, author of “Be Here Now”

Unconscious suffering often means we’re at the mercy of our emotional pain and our own suffering.

It means we get absorbed in our own experiences and aren’t able to have an expanded perspective about them.

In order to transcend pain, we must first know how to transcend our current level of consciousness. 

This requires self-awareness, self-study, and diligence.

It also requires gratitude.

This is how we shift negative emotions and patterns.

You can suffer consciously by invoking your higher brain centers and specifically your prefrontal cortex.

When we experience pain and discomfort our brain’s emotional center hijacks the whole show leaving us to operate out of lower-mind pain avoidance mechanisms.

The yogic principle of Tapas teaches us to withstand pain in order to purify ourselves to become stronger. 

The prefrontal cortex is the most evolved part of the brain.

It’s what helps us engage in higher thinking and more creative problem-solving.

Activities such as breathwork, meditation, and mindfulness help strengthen this thinking center of the brain while also quieting down the emotional center. 

This is how we learn to suffer consciously – by making a choosing awareness, breath, gratitude, and contemplative calm daily

 

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