I’ve struggled for a long time with wondering if pain and suffering were essential to growth. Are they essential to me being a more expanded, clear minded, loving, joyous, sexy human being? Do I have to hurt to get there? Well, I fucking hope not… but I haven’t figured out a way around suffering yet.
I’m really committed to doing what it takes to move towards my joy. Gratitude is a big practice for me. Feeling the agony of what’s going on in the world is a really big deal for me, and I’ve had my own real tragedies. At the time they happened, I’d wished they hadn’t… but now I’m glad they did.
But I’m not specifically grateful because those awful things happened. I am grateful that I had the capacity to turn awful things into expansion, to turn pain into power. So I’m not giving any spiritual credit to perpetrators or to betrayal, or to viruses that infected my body. I’m giving full credit where credit is due: which is to how I hold the divine and use that as a tool to turn the darkness into light.
So many of you shared how difficult it’s been to keep moving through pain and suffering. I had to make this episode about it. Here’s some of what happens in Episode #2 of LIGHT WORK…
1. Calling out the short comings of some of the New Age advice for dealing with suffering.
There’s NO need for you to be grateful for the hardships or for your perpetrators themselves… because you have to remember that the universe brings you more of what you’re grateful for. We must be really discerning about where we put our gratitude with respect to suffering. Be grateful for the faith you generated. Be grateful for the friends, the angels, and the miracles that came into your life. That held you, and lifted you up, and put you back together when you fell apart. Be grateful that you had, and have, and will find the capacity to transform your suffering into learning. That you will heal brokenness into resilience. Be grateful for your strength to handle the challenges.
2. That there are 3 types of suffering…
Everyday Suffering (that general malaise), Interconnected Suffering (when we all feel the agony of the world), and the Brutal Tragedies (incomprehensible loss, violence, trauma).
3. That to deal with that first type of Everyday Suffering… one option is to spring yourself from that trap.
This is especially for Claudia, who feels stuck in her corporate job because it provides great healthcare at low prices. Prioritize your joy over fear. Here’s a poem I wrote for that malaise, called Focus. It’s a poem for sacred prioritizing:
We dance ‘round fires
to pray for others to change,
And we change our names
so that a reality we don’t truly want
will let us in the door
when we should be burning fears,
tattooing our declarations, and praying for the courage
to reign the terrain of our purest potential.
4. And to deal with that second type of Interconnected Suffering? Well, here’s how I do it…
I give myself time to unplug. I work to not feel guilty when I have my days off. I let myself trust that everybody else on the team will run with the ball that day.
I don’t have to be informed every day. I don’t have to be an activist every day. I don’t need to show up fully for the world every day. I believe in my fellow humans who are on the front lines. And when they can’t carry it and they need a day off? Then I can tag in to be there. That’s the beauty of being in this together. So when I do engage, when I do fight, I don’t apologize for it.
I know that stepping up with my voice can create some discomfort for other people, but we’ve got to be uncomfortable to make change. Railing against suffering is so messy. #MeToo, and #NeverAgain, and #TimesUp. That is some beautiful, messy shit. We’re not always going to get our delivery perfect.
5. And the third kind of suffering: brutal tragedy, seemingly insurmountable circumstances. You might ask, “How does a person rise above extreme suffering in this lifetime?”
It’s an excellent question, and I don’t think that someone does rise above it in this lifetime. I think they’re in it. They’re surviving, they’re wrestling, doing everything they can to hold on to their sanity. This is where so much of the motivational speak around pulling yourself up by the bootstraps falls short. They say that the playing field is level, but the playing field on earth isn’t level. There are different spectrums of suffering. Not everybody is born with the same strengths, with the same privilege, with the same gifts…
The exceptional soul is going to find glimmers of light within circumstances of extreme darkness. It happens. There are the people who went through Nazi Germany and they found their “why” in that horror. There’s Mandela who was in prison for 27 years before he became president of South Africa. That is exceptional… and those exceptional people happen. But we can’t use New Age speak to gloss over suffering. Some of us are going to rise above our suffering in a given lifetime, and some of us will not. And there’s no way to make that human struggle more palatable. It’s just really fucking hard.
Becoming comfortable with that reality is not the point. How one Soul decides that it’s going to grow through pain, through pleasure, through ease, through hardship, or through an inheritance fund… that’s their business, their mystery. No guru can tell you why you’re here. I believe that our souls are guiding us through every kind of experience, and I’m learning—not always easily, not without resistance—but I am learning to be at ease with how unfathomable, and how beautiful, that is.
Listen to LIGHT WORK Episode #2 on iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher.
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Light Workers mentioned in this episode…
- Guru Singh is a celebrated third-generation yogi, master spiritual teacher, author, and musician who gracefully brings ancient spiritual practices and philosophies into the now with ease, humanity, humility, and a healthy dose of humour. He fuses Eastern mysticism into Western pragmatism in an accessible and transformative way.
- charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries.
- V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against all women and girls (cisgender, transgender, and gender non-conforming)