I read once that there is no evidence that life gets easier or that people get happier by being on a personal growth or spiritual path. Maybe some people reach enlightenment and enjoy a way of being that makes unhappiness impossible- I think Eckhart Tolle has expressed this when he says it is impossible to be fully present and unhappy.
But for the rest of us mortals, I think that when presence grows suffering remains. There may be less identification with certain painful ego states and increasing freedom, but there is also less defence against our suffering and more awareness of the suffering around us.
I remember Russ Hudson once saying something like this: “If you haven’t started on the path better you shouldn’t. But if you have started, better you should finish.”
The idea of a long, onerous path that it would be better not to start on is certainly disconcerting to the part of us that wants this work to deliver relief. Like a couple of spiritual aspirins. Take two and call me in the morning.
I have difficulty separating my spiritual practice from a motive to get “better”, whether in my physical, emotional, mental or energetic body, my relationships, or my life in general. I do experience my soul’s longing for this work and I know I could never abandon it, but still I am hoping for release in some way, some sort of deliverance.
Pain Is Not The Enemy
Roxanne teaches that “pain is not the enemy”. Rather, “pain is a vehicle for our transformation”. Instead of trying to avoid or escape our pain, she invites us to “turn towards ourselves”.
When we turn towards ourselves with compassion we can sometimes digest or heal old pain. I’ve had the experience of old issues that felt very solid and intensely painful just disappear. We can bring love and light to our own and other’s current suffering. Sometimes something we assume is painful opens up to be something else altogether- like sitting with someone who is dying. We may feel “the peace that surpasses all understanding”.
It’s also true that, with greater awareness, we can be open and vulnerable to experiencing more and more pain. Many of us find, for example, that watching the news is too hard. I sometimes find myself saying “I can’t take it”. Of course I can, but maybe you know the feeling.
The Bottom Line
Whether we understand our pain as having some sort of purpose, whether we embrace it or avoid it, the bottom line is that pain is part of the human condition. On the path of presence, there will not be an end to pain. Living deeply does not mean living easy. And really this makes sense. We are not trying to bury our heads in the sand or “bliss out”.
In Circle we recently read this poem. While slightly different translations exist, I love this one because of the final word.
The wishes of the soul are springing
The deeds of the will are thriving
The fruits of life are maturing
I feel my destiny
My destiny finds me
I feel my star
My star finds me
I feel my goals in life
My goals in life are finding me
My soul and the great world are one
Life grows more abundant about me
Life grows more radiant within me
Life grows more arduous for me.
~ Rudolf Steiner
In what way do you experience this mystery that life grows more abundant, more radiant and also more arduous?