To be present we have to learn to disbelieve our own thoughts and feelings, to understand that they are transitory and insubstantial, that they fill the space that presence is meant to occupy. The moments when we are suffering or unhappy are particularly challenging, because they are also the moments when our thoughts and feelings feel most valid, intense, and real. This means that suffering is our best alarm clock, and that the right use of suffering is one of the primary ways to awaken to the present.
We don’t actually transform our suffering, we transform ourselves—we shift our attention from the part of us that is suffering, resentful, or unhappy, and relocate it into the present. This process shows that much of our suffering takes place in imagination, and that things in themselves are not negative, only our attitude toward them. With a right attitude, we are open to receive help from a higher level, from presence itself, which allows us not only to accept our suffering, but to transform it into a completely different experience. Suffering helps us to be present, and presence transforms our suffering.
Suffering is woven into human life on earth. We cannot avoid it; indeed, without suffering, we could not awaken. It is a joy, then, to learn that true alchemy is turning the lead of suffering into the gold of our own presence, and to discover the internal tools that make it possible.