Monday, April 15, 2013

Discovering Your Commitment to Pain

spiritual pain, spiritual awakening, spiritual photo, spiritual image
We have to be brutally honest with ourselves on the spiritual path. More often than naught, we are completely committed to being in pain.

This tends to be really shocking, and most of you may not believe me. Those of you who have discovered this truth already understand the feelings of self-betrayal and anger that may arise as you gain awareness to how much you've sold yourself out. But in this realization is the light of awareness. In seeing all the ways that you repeat painful cycles and get lost in illusions, you now can break free.


Outlining All Your Lies


Until you sit down and look at all your assumptions, stereotypes, and so forth about yourself and life around you, you haven't really started doing some of the most important work of the spiritual path. While ultimately, freedom is right here in this moment, we are creatures of habit. We are so practiced in keeping ourselves stuck in pain that we don't even know that we daily practice suffering. Consider the woman who keeps putting on make-up that makes her face break-out. Again and again, she puts the make-up on because it is part of the core lie that she must always be beautiful and put her "best face forward." But in trying to do so, she irritates her own skin.

This is probably one of the more benign examples I can show. I could point to how we commit ourselves to abusive relationships and jobs. I could point to how we brutalize our bodies to achieve certain shapes or figures that society deems pleasing. I could point to all the jobs people do just to earn lots of money, and for what? To buy a few more things and experiences, which are gone or uninteresting almost as soon as they've been had.

Yes, the lies are everywhere, but you have to sit down and look at them as well as your commitment to them. Take a hard look in the mirror and write down as many lies that you believe in. Here are some of the big ones, but you also really need to drill down into the nuances of them:

  • I have to be pretty/handsome (Then write out all the attributes that you think are part of those terms)
  • I have to be strong (physically, financially, emotionally, etc.)
  • I have to make lots of money.
  • I have to have a romantic relationship.
  • I have to have a family
As I said, these are the starting points, not the ending points. If you don't see anything wrong with these ideas, then you need to do some work to see why you've accepted that these things are necessary to simply being you.


Moving Into Your Misery: Time to Get Comfortable with Discomfort

I repeatedly talk about the importance of getting comfortable with our own discomfort on this blog. It's because that discomfort is part of us. The external world will always be changing--giving us pleasing and displeasing situations. If we get stuck looking for the external world to give us an internal feeling, than we will be lost to the vagaries of the world our whole lives. The external world is an unending sea of ups and downs, and we need to weigh anchor in our internal space if we are to navigate those waters with any kind of certainty.

That means we have to know what is in our energetic, emotional, intellectual, and physical space. Until we know ourselves and the misery we perpetuate inside of hearts and minds, we don't really know anyone else. In being blind to ourselves, we can too easily blame/commend others for how we feel. So if we get yelled at, we blame the person yelling for making us feel bad. If we get kissed, we commend the other person for kissing us and making us feel good. While we certainly are interconnected and are influenced by the external, at least ninety percent of what we feel is arising on the inside. As we remove internal triggers, we can more consciously choose what we feel as opposed to being manipulated by others.  I think the sexual space is a great example of that. The more unaware you are of your sexual space (turn-ons, etc.), the more others can manipulate you in that space (and this happens A LOT). Knowing your sexual space is a way you reclaim power so that you can better understand what you are feeling and what others may be triggering in you.


Navigating Discomfort With Self Compassion

It's also easy to get into the self-blame game as you begin to see all the ways that you are committed to misery. You may one day realize that you have had such terrible romantic relationships because of your relationship with your father. His abusive habits taught you that abuse and love are a shared package. This social conditioning told you to look for that package in others, and when you found it, your conditioning told you that that person was "safe."

Clearly, as I've outlined in this scenario, an abusive person is not safe, but this goes on all the time. I encourage you to outline the core traits surrounding love in your childhood. See what got combined together as a "loving partner," and then look at how you drew that into your life. Or perhaps, see how you reacted to avoid that type of person, and in that unconscious reaction, you drew in another kind of unhealthy relationship. Because let me be clear: we are not reacting to what we learn about ourselves in an avoidance way. We are just taking a good, long look so that we can figure out how we got to where we are in this moment. Then I encourage you to have compassion. You only knew what you knew then. Now, you can know a little more, and if you have the courage to keep looking within yourself, you'll know more yet until perhaps at some point you really are ready to let go and melt more deeply into your natural loving presence that doesn't have to believe in any painful stories nor continues to perpetuate them. It also doesn't go into reaction to try and create new stories to counter the old ones. It simply goes into deep loving acceptance. From that space, change will arise, but it is never quite what we expect.


Accelerating Through Your Pain

Spiritual awakening is like hitting a fast forward button for realizing all the ways that we commit to pain. I always like the metaphor of an open flood gate. All those waters of the Self are flowing, and any damns in the way are going to get dissolved. It is important to engage with the Self; it is, after all, just you. Too many people go into resistance of all kinds from fighting the awareness to trying to ride out these shifts in a victim mentality that says, "Just get it all over with already!" Neither way of acting truly engages the Self. Acceptance is best. Breathing into the shift is key.

Again and again, you will find out how much suffering you've inflicted on yourself as your waters flow, hit every wall in you, and open you up to the truth and power of your own love. You'll see how you created certain types of scenarios again and again to mirror back to you different aspects of yourself. You'll see how unkind friends and kind friends were just different little actors in you internal drama. One of the surprising things to see is how "good events" have also been part of our suffering. Too often we have a wonderful relationship or experience, but we cling to it instead of letting it pass. We then compare other relationships and experiences against it, and in judging them lesser than that previous one, we don't embrace them. We can't see these new opportunities for what they are. So we miss things and the new lessons that they might have brought. We may even get stuck because of this mindset.

These are the chains of pain that we shackle ourselves in, so we must be relentless in embracing the awakened state. If we don't, the shackles may stay. If we don't, we will simply continue to suffer familiarly.


Embracing the Unknown Again and Again

In many ways, one of the core fears at work is the fear of the unknown. It may also be a fear of death. It may be both and then some. There is so much fear at work in the world that many of you will be making fear into a very close and dear friend as you continue on your spiritual path. One of my students used the term "cuddling" with her uncomfortable feelings earlier this week, so I encourage you to get cozy with your fears. They aren't leaving. They've been here the whole time. So you might as well get a snuggily blanket and some tea and spend some conscious time together. I guarantee you that you will learn a lot about yourself, and in seeing fear in this way, it also starts to dissolve.

Because we aren't meant to suffer in this lifetime, and healing and letting go are also natural parts of our souls' energetic make-ups. Most of us are out of practice in healing and letting go, so all of this will feel quite new, quite unknown. And each time you step into a new level or layer of fear, it can feel just as terrifying or more terrifying than the last. In stepping through it and releasing it, it often feels silly or inconsequential. It is like our fears start out looking like lions, but in the end there aren't much bigger than field mice. Then, maybe there's a moment of amusement to see how much energy has gone into pain and struggle and release. Then, perhaps, there's a deeper moment of self-gratitude for embracing this natural inner love, and maybe, just maybe, the next level of fear, discomfort, and pain is even easier to simply release as you melt more deeply into the Awakened you that has always been here.

Today's picture comes from Becky Stiller. You can see more of her beautiful photos on this Flickr link.
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