"The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering. The more the ground is ploughed the better the seed will grow, the better the harvest will be. Just as the plough furrows the earth deeply, purifying it of weeds and thistles, so suffering and tribulation free man from the petty affairs of this worldly life until he arrives at a state of complete detachment." - 'Abdul-Bahá
It seems we live in a society that is deeply convinced that if we can just live a worry-free, stress-free life we are doing it right. Increasingly I have begun to question this idea and wonder if there is a much deeper significance to suffering and discomfort that we will lose if we try and stay away from suffering. I am not advocating that we worry, worry stems from fear that can lead to a desire to control. I am not saying that we should stress either, stress is a symptom of an attempt to control something that may not be under our ability to control. And finally, I am definitely not saying we should seek suffering or worse, inflict it on others. What I am saying, is that in trying to avoid the suffering that naturally comes with life, we may also be avoiding an opportunity to love deeply.
So then how should we deal with suffering?
Because we have not released the pain and fear, it becomes a constant feeling of pain and a fear of being undeserving of anything good. Suffering by itself is useless as a tool for growth, it requires movement in order for it serve its purpose. When seen as a tool for spiritual growth, suffering has great capacity.
What I have learned about suffering is that it requires movement in order for it to release its spiritual powers. This movement can come in the form of releasing pain and fears. It can come in the relinquishment of control, recognizing when one has done all they can and then those things that we are still suffering over, release them so that a higher force in nature can take hold of them. This movement stretches out space within us, space that creates more capacity for us to love. The bigger the suffering, the greater the capacity built within us to love.
This movement of suffering through us is such a force that when sustained, allows one to release all the false beliefs they held within. Suffering shutters us and this shuttering causes us to release with great force. Suffering doubles us over and this doubling over causes us to purge out all those things we held within that we thought were true...what if I'm not good enough? what if I failed? what if nobody wants me? what if I'll always be alone?...and from this purging comes opportunity, opportunity to tell ourselves the truth.
I think of purging like throwing up. When throwing up we feel awful. Our stomach wretches, our throat aches, our mouth salivates a horrible taste, and then the worst stuff comes out of us in bits and pieces, chunks and juices, all of it comes out and with a horrible smell. This is purging emotions! It can be awful in the process, but once you have begun throwing up, you cannot suddenly stop. Same with purging of emotions - once you allow the dam to release, you cannot try and stop it, it must flow and be allowed out. And what happens when we are done? We feel sore, but better. Just like after throwing up - we feel a little shaky and raw inside for a bit, but then we feel better! Soon after throwing up we want something gentle and soothing and we want to be held and loved. The same is true after we have released a great deal of emotions and false beliefs, we want to be held and nurtured and loved deeply and we want to be filled with the truth.
This is how suffering opens us up! We finally let go, we contract and release everything within us and a wider space has opened up inside of us, ready to be filled...so we must be mindful of what we fill it with!
So what do we fill ourselves with?
I say love. Love for ourselves, for the life walk we were given to learn from, love for those closest to us, for the life walk they were given to learn from, love for this Divine Being that believes so much in our capacity to move through this life and all of its tests and difficulties and still land in love.