It’s a great question because it belies the fact that we don’t see things as they are; rather, we see things as we imagine them to be. We have to make sense (i.e., create understanding) of things to store them in our minds.
You’ve read many of these, too. It’s common for us to respond, “I couldn’t do that.” What we forget, however, is that they didn’t think they could do that, either. In fact, they didn’t transform their tragedy right away. It often took many months of one-day-at-a-time healing.
But, what’s the alternative? If not transformation, then what? In our community, family literacy efforts recognize that when you teach a family to read you often end a generations-old cycle of illiteracy. The doors of education open wide for parents and children, and even wider for grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Similarly, when we heal deep pain, we often break the lineage of hurt or keep it from taking root. We transform our present as well as our legacy.
If we set our intention on transformation and allow ourselves to look deeply into our own suffering, it will guide us and we will know what to do and what not to do to change our hearts. We will eventually arrive on the other side suffering and find ourselves.
We can tell a lot by what a person does with their suffering: do they transmit it or do they transform it. Richard Rohr
In 1993, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a brief essay on transforming suffering (read it now)