Editors note: this post was originally featured in 2015. New posts on The C2C return May 15,2017
”Sustained conscious attention severs the link between pain-body and your thought processes and brings about the process of transmutation. It is as if the pain becomes fuel for the flame of your consciousness, which then burns more brightly as a result. This is the esoteric meaning of the ancient art of alchemy: the transmutation of base metal into gold, of suffering into consciousness. The split within is healed, and you become whole again. Your responsibility is not to create further pain.”
– Eckhart Tolle
“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.’
– from “The Princess Bride”
Rumi, a 13th-century poet and theologian from Persia, once said that it was through pain that we can reach a state of enlightened living. He even once compared our souls as a house and that through this house many different “visitors” arrive and that we must let all of them through—even if these “visitors” ransack our house and leave it in shambles.
These “visitors” he was talking about represent our many different pains. In his verses, Rumi was able to describe, albeit very mysteriously, the process by which we can turn these very painful feelings into something more positive.
Through his poetry, Rumi was arguing that our pain is actually good thing—as long as we allow it to run its course.
Can Pain Be Good For You?
Most, if not all of us, suffer from some form of pain on a daily basis.
It may be emotional pain like anxiety, depression, fear, bitterness, loneliness, insecurity, doubt, hatred, self-hatred, jealousy, guilt, despair, or confusion.
For some of us, the pain is more spiritual: like a sudden loss of meaning, or a deep loss of faith. For those who do not consider themselves to be spiritual, they may refer to it as an experience of being “uprooted,” or of no longer “being grounded.”
For others, the pain is physical: we may suffer physical pain through diseases or other physical ailments.
For still others, the pain comes from a barrage of thoughts that they seem unable to control: they can’t help but think about all the bad that could happen to them, or all the bad things they don’t like about themselves or other people.
Finally, almost all of us suffer from some sort of communal pain: we see the pain of others, or others like us, and we feel this pain as our own, and we feel helpless to remedy this suffering.
It is no surprise that all five different types of pain we experience on a daily basis correspond to all the five parts of our being: body, mind, spirit, heart, and community. (For more on this, I recommend you read my eBook, The Courage To Live.)
And whenever we feel one of these 5 pains, we always ask:
“Why must I go through this pain?” Or: “why must they go through this pain?”
I, personally, don’t have an answer as to “why” we must go through the pain, but I have found that, even if we cannot find the reason for the pain, there is a way to cope with the pain.
How do we cope with the pain?
We feel it. We experience it. We allow it. We relax into it.
You see, we tend to believe that our way through the pain is around it, over it, under it, or away from it. Anyway but through it. I have found—and I’m sure you may have as well—that this avoidance strategy simply never works.
My good friend E—who, you might remember, has been quoted on this blog over the last several years several times and has now become a licensed therapist, which gives you an idea of how long I’ve been doing this—but recently she told me something very wise. She said: “The very fact that we are trying to avoid something is proof that there is a problem that seriously needs to be addressed: in whatever we are avoiding we can be certain that in there we will find our biggest wounds that need healing.”
After she said this to me, it made me think: what if most of our society’s current problems stem from our need to avoid our pain? Whether it be physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, or communal?
Could it be that the reason we are in this mess is mostly because we’ve convinced ourselves that pain is bad for us, and that we must, at all costs, do everything we can to not feel this pain, to not experience this pain, to not know this pain, to not understand this pain, and to not see where this pain is leading us?
Have you noticed that all the messages in relation to pain that we receive in the mainstream media do one of two things: they show us pain, but then do not show us a way to cope with the pain. Or: they mention pain, but then immediately show us all the ways we can avoid it.
Am I the only one who thinks there is something wrong with our messaging around pain? Are we really to believe that pain is just there just for pain’s sake? We either have to witness pain and feel helpless in its presence; or we have to acknowledge pain but then quickly do whatever we can to avoid it at all costs?
What if there was another way? What if pain is trying to tell us something? What if it is leading us somewhere? Should we listen to pain instead, instead of ignore it or become paralyzed by it?
What if the root of our pain is actually the route that will lead us directly to our ascension? What if it is through our pain—not around it—where we will find the key to enlightened living?
What if it’s actually by avoiding the pain that you are allowing the pain to increase it’s power over you? What if it’s on the other side of your pain that you will find true joy and lasting peace? What if, instead of avoiding everything that pains you today, you stared at it, straight in the face, and listened to what it was telling you?
If you did that–if you truly did that–you might you discover, just as I did, that pain was really your friend. That Pain was only a messenger telling you where you were hurting so you could clear out that hurt and move on to something better. That Pain was only a part of the ground crew on the airstrip of your life, trying to show you where you were going wrong, marshaling you to the right location, and re-routing you so you could, eventually, lift yourself up, back into the sky, where you belong.
How To Use Your Pain As Fuel For Your Ascension
For centuries, it has been known that the way to a more enlightened life is actually through the very thing we think is working against us: our present pain.
I’m telling you nothing new: this “secret” has been known for eons. The ancient gurus and saints and prophets all spoke of this and today, our modern psychologists and researchers are telling us this, too. What are they tell us? They are telling us that, in fact, our saving grace is not going to come from some future that we wish might happen, or from some past we have to run away from or fix. No: our saving grace is going to come directly through our current being–our current body, our current spirit, our current heart, our current mind, our current community–and our ability to let all our pains move through our current being and out of our current being.
What I am trying to say is that the “dream you” is lying hidden inside of your current being–right now–waiting to be awakened.
If you want to awaken the “dream you,” you’ll have to deal with the pain you’re currently holding onto in each of these 5 parts of your being. You have to begin by asking yourself:
• What pain is in my mind?
• What pain is in my heart?
• What pain is in my body?
• What pain is in my community?
• What pain is in my spirit?
Once you’ve identified the pain in each part of you, you then have to empty yourself out. You have to clear out all the garbage. You have to become the nothingness that surrounds you.
If you desire ascension (and, at some level, we all do) then you must feel your pain. You must experience this pain. You must listen to it. Write about it. Cry it out. Punch it out. Sing about it. Dance about it. Pray about it.
It will feel awful. It will be terrible. It will be the worst experience you’ll ever have. You’ll hate it. But then… after it’s all done… and that “visitor” called Pain has left your house, a grand and all-knowing peace will descend upon you.
You will feel lighter. You will feel more like you. You feel more “here.”
You may even feel something at your backside—something made of feathers and hollow bones—just flap…
…for the very first time.