Everybody has different kinds of comfort zones, and some people are already comfortable and able to work through certain types of pain and discomfort. For instance, an ultra-marathoner may know all about physical pain. She can push herself through excruciating segments of a long race and has little to no fear of her body’s limits. But then, she runs up against an issue of the heart. Maybe it’s a man she’s been longing after but can’t express it. Maybe it’s an inability to speak her heart to her mother. Wherever there is a limitation like this, that is where we must go.
However instead of dealing with the heart issue, the opposite is what more commonly happens. The ultra-marathoner would rather find a new physical challenge to deal with than this heart issue. A man in-touch with his emotions would rather share feelings than deal with his laziness that is making him obese. The intellectual would rather think more thoughts or talk about more spiritual ideas than deal with seemingly illogical energetic experiences.
The number of variations on self-avoidance is endless, and in getting to know yourself, it’s important to understand what issues and parts of yourself you still avoid. Because as far as your spiritual growth and maturity is concerned, whatever you are avoiding is where you greatest growth is awaiting you.
On another note, if you are new to my work and haven’t talked with me about sessions yet, I offer one-on-one Skype sessions to people all around the world and help them to go into the dark places within and embrace their truth. You can learn more about my sessions on these two links:
The great thing about people who have already learned how to face some kind of pain is that they already have a mental understanding that breaking out of their comfort zone is A) possible and B) beneficial. A lot of the people who have never really faced any kind of psychological, emotional, energetic, or physical discomfort can struggle mightily with the spiritual path. The belief that staying comfortable is preferable to discomfort stagnates many people’s inner work. However, the spiritual path teaches us to embrace all of life, and since pain is an integral part of life, that too must be faced and embraced.
But we also need to learn to face the right kind of pain. It’s just so common for people who have worked through one area of growth to want to stay there. The person who has had a lot of intellectual breakthroughs may keep searching for more and more ideas. They succeeded there once, and so now they have some familiarity and comfort with expanding their minds. Plenty of spiritual people come to this blog just to find more ideas, but at a certain point, no more ideas are necessary. If someone has properly cultivated their mind, then it’s time to move on to other regions of exploration such as the heart, body, or subtle energy. Trying to find more ideas or challenge more old assumptions in the mind after awhile becomes fruitless and a type of avoidance. Additionally, the deepest spaces of the mind are often cultivated through silence now more mental noise.
Nothing to Prove
I want to emphasize that facing pain and issues that are being avoided isn’t about proving anything. Every now and again, someone comes to me who is trying to prove something to herself. She’s making herself uncomfortable in a variety of ways to be with the discomfort. She thinks that she can overcome discomfort by facing it again and again in different external circumstances. Or she thinks she can “achieve” something through this self-inflicted suffering. Sometimes this works like traveling by yourself to overcome the fear of it and prove you can do it, but after the first couple of times, this methodology can quickly become useless. The individual can travel to more and more places or go to dangerous situations in attempts to prove herself. But the deeper issues stay in place, and she could even get herself into needless physical danger if she goes to extremes with this need to prove herself.
Ultimately, the ego self that needs to prove itself is the problem. This mentality is often a diversion from the discomfort in the ego itself. Thus, turning attention inwards towards the ego can start to show what the person is actually avoiding. Any time someone is trying to prove something, it’s often a sign that they are actually trying to avoid themselves. They are focusing on the wrong kind of pain.
Making Space for Spiritual Truth
Instead of proving anything about the types and kinds of pain you can handle, it’s more important that you make space. See what is arising within you. What types of thoughts come up? What types of feelings? Keep coming back to awareness to notice how they change depending on the situation. The more you pay attention to yourself, the easier it is to see what you are avoiding and what kinds of pain may need to be addressed, if any.
The spiritual path isn’t solely about healing issues, but since people have gotten so good at avoiding things, healing tends to dominate the early parts of someone’s path. Until someone can see clearly, they cannot interact appropriately with reality. Therefore, we must focus on restoring the sight before moving any further on the spiritual path. So, one makes space by being in awareness, and from awareness, the issues that really need attention can be seen and addressed.
Continuing to Focus on the Wrong Issues
Yet despite what I’ve said, many people will continue to focus on the wrong issue. The intellectual will keep retreating to ideas and complex thoughts. The body-aware person will run back to yoga and do a thousand more asanas, and the heart-centered person will keep rolling around in a sea of emotions. And the same types of scenarios and issues will keep arising in their lives.
That really is a hallmark of the ego–repetition. If a situation arises once in your life and then goes away never to repeat, then that was life being life. But if the same types of issues and situations keep coming up again and again, that’s on you. That’s a sign that you are re-creating similar situations with others, and that’s a sign that you have work to do in investigating yourself and your ego.
If this is difficult and you feel truly blind to what you should focus upon, ask for help! There are lots of therapists, healers, teachers, and spiritual helpers out there in-person and online. I encourage you to make use of them. If you do, you’ll likely find the issues that you’ve been avoiding or missing, and then you can find the right issues to address to go deeper in your inner work.
For some more thoughts on this topic, you may also want to check out these blog posts:
Here’s a video on spiritual bypassing too!