The Balance of Happiness and Suffering

The Alpine cold arrived early this year. A couple of weeks in, and my clinic is busy. Some days the waitlist is 1, 3, or even 5 people. There are voicemail messages from people seeking relief from pain, speaking with tight voices from holding back tears. Loved ones are dying. Joints are aching. Cancer is returning. People are getting sick for the third and fourth time this year. There is a lot of suffering.

Many times a day, I wonder what I can do to ease this suffering. Each person has a story to tell. I listen, observe, look for patterns, and apply what I know to help – acupuncture and herbal medicine, cupping, tuina, gua sha, moxibustion, blessings, and meditations.

Sometimes, I have doubts and confusion about the proper treatment and the right course of action. The doubts begin to spin in my mind, and a kind of panic sets in. But my training and my practice help me at the moment to calm my nervous system, relax my mind, and give the moment a bit of space.


My suffering is what led me to seek out help years ago and started me on this path of practicing Eastern medicine. Reflecting, I can see how lost I was in my suffering. I was barely living.

My suffering was not unique. As we know, none of us is exempt from experiencing tragedy and loss. Anything can happen at any time. I was trapped in suffering because I had no awareness of my mind and the story I was stuck in.

We have all experienced being so lost in our minds that we cannot see a way out. We spin and spin and spin until we are caught in pure despair, without a center and ground, overwhelmed with fear and doubt.

Finding Space

Some days the suffering is a lot to take. I come home and need a little space. Putting on my hat and gloves, I find that being in nature is the best for giving me space to return to the center. Looking across the valley to the mountains in the distance gives me perspective. Watching the birds migrating across the sky sharpens my senses. The sparkle of the sun on the snow provides beauty and delight. The cold is a breath of fresh air. Suddenly, I have space.

Resting Your Mind

This time of year provides a time to give us a bit of space because it is a time of transition. It is not yet full winter, but no longer fall. Not quite the festive holidays but not time for a vacation. The days are short, and the nights are long.

It is in the transition that we can rest our minds. The transition of day to night, inhale to exhale, work to home. A moment of emptiness creates a space in which to rest.

Our mind’s empty, open nature is revealed, with the mind simply resting in awareness. This is the space to drop out of the stories of our lives.

Observing Your Stories

Who we are, our identity is made up of stories that we tell ourselves. So often, these stories create our suffering by clouding our thoughts and creating doubts, confusion, tension, and pain.

There are moments when it seems impossible to get out from under the weight of the stories. But this is just a story, too. Instead, suffering can give us the space to see beyond ourselves and the blessing of being alive.

The Suffering that Ends Suffering

Suffering can help us wake up to the blessing of our human birth, life, and being alive. This kind of suffering leads to the end of suffering – when it opens us and reveals to us our blessings.

  • Practice Freeing the Mind With These Profound Tools
    1. Relax your mind
    2. Rest in openness. This means being in the space between the stories that we tell ourselves.
    3. Let your mind reflect on what keeps you caught up in the stories of your life.
    4. What kind of burden or suffering does this create?
    5. Is it possible to be free?
    6. Does this create happiness?
    7. What can remind you, again and again, to free yourself of the stories?