Suffering is grace.
If you are reading this post today, the likelihood is that suffering brought you to my blog today. Suffering most likely brought you to the spiritual path.
If someone is immersed in a comfortable happy life, they generally don’t go digging through search engine results and social media to find spiritual articles. They’re happy. Their ego has decided to keep things as they are. Does it occasionally happen that someone comes to a stage of happiness and success that brings them to the spiritual path? Yes.
But more often, it’s suffering that forced someone to search. Furthermore, it’ll be suffering that causes someone to continue and deal with difficult attachments. The person in their comfortable, happy ego cage will generally find difficulty too much with which to deal, and this is where casual spiritual seekers stop.
Why wreck the party if it is a good one?
Why wake up if you’re having good dreams?
But those in bad dreams and nightmares want to get out of them, and this suffering is what drives so many people to spirituality and to seeking spiritual freedom. That is why suffering is grace. Most people would probably have never gotten even a little bit more free without it.
Now let’s dive into this topic a little more.
Pain and suffering get people started on the spiritual path, but they can only take people so far.
Before I get going further, I want to offer an important distinction on pain and suffering:
Pain is a communication tool of the body. It tells us when something is hurt.
Suffering is a choice. It’s the ego reaction to something in life.
There will always be pain, but suffering we can be free of. For example, relationships end all the time. There is no physical pain to it. But if a person’s ego thinks the ending is bad, then they suffer all kinds of upset emotions and physical sensations. Additionally, two people can have a relationship end, but they can have vastly different experiences of that ending. If there was inherent pain to ending a relationship, both parties would have to feel basically the same thing.
With that said, most of our choices around suffering have become so unconscious that we don’t realize we have a choice. The loss of that choice is a loss of freedom. If you can’t choose how you feel about the end of a relationship, that’s a loss of the multitude of emotional choices you could make.
I can’t tell you how many people have connected to me and gotten on the spiritual path because of the suffering of an ended relationship. It’s a lot of people. And for those who grow on the spiritual path, they eventually can see that the suffering of that ended relationship has become a grace unto itself.
Suffering Is a Terrible Teacher
Suffering is a terrible teacher, however. It’s terrible not because it feels bad. It’s terrible because people only want to get out it. Once they are out of the suffering and/or have come to a moment where the ego has what it wants, then many people quit the spiritual path.
Quitting too soon is common. The person just wanted to get out of an uncomfortable emotional state. They succeeded. They never wanted to do inner work or find spiritual freedom, and now that they’re comfortable, inner work seems like a needless grind.
Let me be clear: spiritual inner work is challenging. It’s challenging to the ego to look at itself. We like to believe that we see ourselves and life clearly.
We see ourselves and life through a huge number of beliefs and emotions that filter and distort our experiences. For any of you who have come a significant way on the spiritual path, you know just how little you once knew about yourself and about life. It’s a wonder you didn’t harm yourself or others; some of you may have, for which atonement is important.
But early on, most people don’t realize the profound depth of their ignorance, and if the suffering is alleviated too soon, it’s absence will allow people space to quit. And during it’s presence, all the person really wants to do is – not understand it – but get rid of it.
The Return of Suffering
There are a lot better spiritual teachers – living and dead – than suffering. It’s just hard for people to self-generate the motivation that suffering gives them.
Truly being motivated means continuing deeper through moments when things are easy, and once again, that means being willing to upset the status quo inside you and around you. People don’t evolve separate from others. However, it takes a lot of suffering for some people to upset/change the relationships around them. Even when a relationship is really bad, people fear changing it. Familiar misery has a certain power to it. A little suffering can be dealt with for a person’s whole life. That’s why suffering usually has to be significant to get many people’s attentions.
Additionally when the relationships are seemingly good, a person will try to somehow keep their spiritual work separate from them because they are attached to the relationships. They don’t want to potentially lose them.
But ultimately all relationships are illusions and temporary. Additionally, trying to create separation to hide one’s changes and growth creates more issues, and it denies the truth that we are all one. But people don’t want truth; they generally want comfort. So, many people will shut down their spiritual development…
…until suffering returns again.
Spiritual Awakening and Realizing the Suffering You’re in
One of the biggest misunderstandings of spiritual awakening is that it somehow creates suffering.
It shows the suffering the person had been ignorant to. While awakened energy definitely pressurizes issues, one of the biggest parts of what arises is that a person is more conscious of their inner and outer reality. They are now conscious of a small piece of the suffering they’re in.
And it’s generally only a piece of the suffering. Despite how powerful awakened energy is, the Divine knows we can only handle a little truth at a time. The enormity of the suffering we initially see is rarely anything compared to how much suffering we realize we’re truly in later on.
Once again, for those who are new to my work, I speak of awakening in a very narrow sense. I talk about awakened energy that independently and intelligently transforms a person regardless of whether they want it or not, whether they’re even spiritual or not. Most other spiritual experiences people have are what I call openings, but spiritual openings are powerful too. They are a light being switched on in the room. Now the person has to decide if they’re willing to clean up the mess.
Fast Forward Through a Whole Lot of Suffering
There’s a lot that goes on in surrendering to suffering and dissolving ego conditioning. This blog is full of advice on countless topics, as is my YouTube channel
But I want to jump ahead. I want to jump ahead to the gratitude we discover towards suffering after all of that. I want to talk about the humility and the profound appreciation we have towards our suffering after we’ve discovered more of the truth. Most people realize that they’d never have learned what they now know or gone as far as they did without suffering. They realize that they were far too stuck in ego to do such a thing, much less to consciously choose it. They realize that suffering has been a Divine grace beyond comparison.
And it’s here that a new level of commitment that doesn’t require suffering can be made. It’s here that a person on the path to spiritual freedom can choose better teachers than suffering and go deeper into far darker, denser, and more difficult attachments. It’s here that the spiritual path moves to a whole new level.
For more of my thoughts on this topic, you can watch this video.