Yes, The Path To Enlightenment Is Painful
I often talk about living the life you were meant to live. When I'm asked about this, I turn to the dozens of people who come to me dissatisfied that they've worked so hard for such little return, or feel as if they have so much left to do in their lives. They worry that their lives will be less than they should be; that they will be less than they could be.
Many have turned to practices or philosophies that tell them the pain they feel is a result of wanting too much. That happiness is somehow not about living up to their potential, but of revisiting their expectations. That somehow trying to fulfill their hopes and dreams is the source of their pain.
It's not a belief that I embrace. No, that does not mean you have to buy into the game of keeping up with the Joneses. Nor does it mean you should give up on your dreams of a nice home or crafting art you can enjoy. It means finding out what you really want, what your simple truths are, and living up to your potential regardless of what anyone else thinks of you.
Yes, life brings pain, but so does letting it slide by. Pain isn't the enemy. Pain is a part of living. Pain is a sign that you're growing.
In many ways, pain is as much a part of the path to enlightenment as compassion and love. It shows you what to do, and more important, what not to do. When you live fully, you'll find that the fear of pain is almost always worse than pain itself. You're a spirit encased in a human body. On your path to enlightenment, you'll face hurdles of the physical and metaphysical kind. Those hurdles will cause you to become greater than you ever thought possible; and that's what the human experience is about — growing and evolving.
Thinking that a life free from pain is the answer is like saying we can do away with the human body we were given in order to grow beyond it. The human body you inhabit IS part of the experience. Learning to understand it, to work with it, and to overcome it is part of the journey.
I wish I could say there is a way to live life without pain. There isn't. Pain is a part of the human experience. But there's a way to reduce it, to learn how to override it. To do away with it all together is to lose a very valuable part of the human experience. So learn how to use the pain that you feel in a positive way. Learn how to identify the ego and the pain that it causes. When you do this, you learn how to overcome your pain so that you can live your life fully, openly and without regret.
You have a choice in life. One way is based on giving in to the very physical needs of your ego, your brain and your body. The other is based on finding and living by your own simple truth. One fulfills the body, the other fulfills the mind, the spirit and the universe. One is based on Neolithic needs. The other is based on a universal consciousness that lives forever.
If you want happiness and enlightenment, don't try to rid yourself of pain. Embrace it for what it is so that you can learn from it. Learn to balance the two sides of you so that your needs, desires, goals and actions support yourself without doing harm to others.
It's not a new idea, but one as old as time. It's also easier than you might think to achieve. Simply realize that it's okay to dream, but balance your needs with those of the world around you. It's okay to have a nice house to live in, just so long as it doesn't displace others. It's okay to have a career that enriches you and that you grow from, just as long as it doesn't require suffering of others. It's okay for you to search for love and companionship, just as long as you don't leave a path of broken hearts in your wake.
You see, you can fulfill all of your hopes and dreams. You can also achieve those without living in fear of pain. When you live by your own simple truth, you'll quickly learn that what you truly want is in line with what everyone wants. Yes, there will be pain, but the kind of pain that is a building block, rather than a barrier.
Jeff Cannon is a Modern American Monk and meditation teacher. He is the author of two books on meditation, spirituality, and wellness.