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The Opportunity of Suffering

Garuda_calSuffering is an opportunity.  We usually see suffering as an obstacle to life – and it is most certainly that! – but it is also an opportunity.  How so?  You see, suffering is a turn inward, a withdrawal from the world.  Such an inward turn is a rare shift from extra-spection (looking at the world) to intro-spection (looking at oneself).

Keith Dowman, in The Flight of Garuda: the Dzogchen Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, writes: “Suffering provides the essential motivation for renunciation and meditation practice.” 

Indeed, suffering is a serendipitous opportunity for mindfulness – it’s an encounter with oneself.  To be precise, suffering is an encounter with one’s Self and Non-Self – with the Ever-Changing and the Changeless. In suffering, we focus on pain, on angst, on depression – i.e. on our experience, on that which is ever fleeting. And in so doing, we divide the mindless oneness of what we usually are into a mindful duality of Self (Subject) and Non-Self (Object) – we notice the field-of-awareness that we always are – the Whole that remains after its experiential manifestation-parts have once again re-assembled into a new Gestalt.

Of course, there is no need to seek suffering just to develop a meditation practice.  Suffering will find you (on its own karmic timeline).  And when suffering finds you, when the bird of suffering lights upon your shoulder, see if you can find yourself amidst suffering.  Just look inside, that’s all.

The Opportunity of Suffering

Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Pavel Somov, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice and the author of 7 mindfulness-based self-help books. Several of his books have been translated into Chinese, Dutch & Portuguese. Somov is on the Advisory Board for the Mindfulness Project (London, UK). Somov has conducted numerous workshops on mindfulness-related topics and appeared on a number of radio programs. Somov's book website is and his practice website is

Marla Somova, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Pittsburgh, PA. She is the co-author of "Smoke Free Smoke Break" (2011).

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APA Reference
Somov, P. (2016). The Opportunity of Suffering. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 May 2016
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