Crazy to think suffering could ever help

Why is it that when someone tells you about recalling a “past life” it’s always one of glamour where you had lots of power to change things in the world?

You know, they remember that they were either a king or a queen, a great general or a grand lady. Never hear much about the run of the mill folks which made up most humanity in our history.

I had a “vision” the other day. (“There he goes again,” you might be saying, but please, hold your wise cracks until later.)

I was in a large room with many people, mostly all women and I heard “wailing” and sobbing as the people shuffled back and forth speaking to no one in particular but to anyone who would listen. It was an “insane asylum.” One of those built over a hundred years ago.

Sitting at a table, I watched one woman glide across the floor advising us to beware of some future disaster. She had long hair. Brunette. Hair was all messed up. Her “night-gown” was pulled down toward the front and you could see the top of her chest. Modesty was the last thing on her mind. Her pain appeared to lead her step by step as she went from person to person warning them to take care.

Don’t know if I was an attendant in the facility or a patient. Could’ve been a man or a woman. Still had all of my senses and I felt I was able to live and even thrive in such an environment. And it got me thinking later that maybe this was one of my past lives.

And if so, what is that life trying to tell me, or from a Buddhist perspective, what have I been reborn to “set right” in this, my new life? That people with mental disorders are just like you and me? They are our neighbors, co-workers, our future wives and husbands? That we all have some disorder or unbalance about ourselves that could remain hidden most of our lives unless circumstances force them to the surface?

It got me thinking about my PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and how it may not have come to a head had I not been exposed to war as a young man. I probably would have the general everyday garden variety of neurosis like depression, anxiety and the occasional panic attacks. But because I’ve been treated for PTSD,  and have studied it well enough to overcome the stigma attached to it, I can speak publically about not only that problem, but others from the mental health area.

I’m a little nuts. But I think we’re all a little nuts, a little crazy at times. It’s what makes us different and unique. Taken to extreme, I think any person could go off the “deep end” if they focus too much on their own problems, their own sufferings. And that’s where my understanding of Buddhism could come into play for many.

Don’t focus on you’re own suffering. Look at the pain of those now living in Haiti, for example. They could write a book on suffering and we could all benefit by it by feeling that hurt, recognizing that we all face our own “disasters” and the best way to dig out from our realm of hell is to help others.

That’s what we did in our past lives, remember. When we were the kings and queens and could help the downtrodden. We still can. Help. With love and compassion. There’s nothing crazy about that.

12 comments on “Crazy to think suffering could ever help

  1. kim says:

    I wish I had read this when I had more time to respond. Maybe your ‘vision’ isn’t supposed to tell you anything? Maybe it’s just something that was stressful for you in that past life? I have had several, but only glimpses. Was not a king or queen in any of them, but the lingering feelings afterwards stayed for a long time. One was a happy marriage celebration in what seemed to be a modest little inn. My husband sat next to me, cracked a joke, and the table roared with laughter. At that moment I felt so very happy. Was probably in Europe somewhere. I don’t know the time period– maybe mid-1800s. I had on a long peasant dress. He wore a white blousy top.

    In another I was a young boy of maybe 12– orphaned and scruffy– and working as a ship hand. Someone– one of the sailors hands me a knife. I don’t know what that meant except the knife represented an evil deed I would later commit. The knife was pure evil and the cause of much suffering in that life and lives to come, I believe. OK– so now I’m insane. lol

    Must go now.


    • contoveros says:

      You are one crazy mother-humper. I’m talking about the 12 yr old boy, that is.

      You know, the scruffy orphaned cabin kid. Probably did in the captain while he was sleeping.

      Bless you my “peasant friend” from another life.

      Yes, we are all a little mad. It’s what Zorba the Greek says gives us “LIFE,” a little madness!

      michael j


      • kim says:

        I wanted to add that if everyone believed they might reincarnate third world living conditions would increase dramatically. So we were friends in previous lives-eh? And that’s what drove you crazy?


  2. sparrow says:

    Blessing to you dear Michael. . . .This reminds me of something i have carried in my purse for years. It was given to me by a father whose daughter had been killed by a drunk driver on the afternoon she and her best friend where leaving their college graduation ceremony. Susan had carried this in her wallet and i made the decision to carry it for her. . .

    Michael i think you will understand Susan. . . .

    ” ” In some way, however small and secret, each of us is a little mad. . . . . .Everyone is lonely at the bottom and cries to be understood; but we can never entirely understand someone else. and each of us remain part stranger even to those that love us. . . . It is the weak that are cruel; gentleness can be expected only from the strong. . . . Those that do not know fear are not really brave.. . . .for courage is the capacity to confront that which can be imagined.. . . . . You can understand people better, if you look at them, no matter how old or impressive they may be—-as if they are children. For most of us never mature ; we simply grow taller. . . . Happiness comes when we push our hearts and brains to the farthermost reaches of what we are capable. . . . The purpose of life is to matter——to count, to stand for something , to have it make some difference that we lived at all.”


    • contoveros says:

      The purpose of life could be to stand tall as a child, and seek the faith, hope and love that still exists living as a child in everyone else.


      michael j


  3. We are all mentally ill- just a matter of degree.

    I’ve had powerful visions and dreams too. Some were deeply meaningful and brought me to a new level of awareness. But all of them have to be left behind eventually- it is Mara, your own innate capability to distract yourself with details. Madness definitely lies at the end of that road. Be careful.


    • contoveros says:

      Sharing the dream may be all that is needed to release its message to your self. When seen by the sun shine of the day, a vision may take on a completely different light.

      You’re correct to be concerned, however. Too harsh a light can blind you.

      And change a daydream to a nightmare.


  4. Hello Michael,

    Fabulous post as always my friend. It may be interesting to know who has a mental disorder and who does not. It could be the person you love or a coworker, just about anyone. I am diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and PTSD. I too have come to grips with my diagnosis and studied everything I could get my hands on. I understand and that understanding has brought me tremendous amounts of healing. I am NOT my diagnosis. I am a person like everyone else, I am a professional, a writer, a dog trainer… I am all of these things and more. Still, I am human. I am very interested to hear more of your visions.


    • contoveros says:

      We all need some sort of healing. And that is usually the first step, that is, to acknowledge it without any stigma attached.

      Make a joke about it. Look at Woody Allen and his rants about therapists and insecurities. In many ways, he has shown us more of how to accept our frailities and still get the girl in the end.

      Ah, maybe Woody Allen “getting the girl” wasn’t such a good analogy. But, I think you get the idea.


  5. saradode says:

    This is a beautiful post, Michael–especially, “the best way to dig out from our own realm of hell is to help others.” I’ve been teaching my son (and myself) that. It’s always the simplest things…



    • contoveros says:

      “It is in the giving, that we receive.
      It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned.”

      St Francis of Assisi would probably agree that the best way to help one’s own suffering is in the helping to ease the suffering of another. You look hard enough, and you can always find someone worse off.

      Sometimes, they’re not that hard to find.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.