Must spiritual growth be painful?

The subject of no pain, no gain in spiritual healing keeps coming up recently. It seems that we have programmed ourselves to believe that if we are not feeling something with extreme discomfort then we are not working hard enough.

I first noticed this general phenomenon when I began working at an office. Every Monday morning people would talk about their weekend. But they would not be talking about the fun things they did. No, they would try to outdo each other in how hard their weekend was. It is as if there was an unspoken contest about who gets less sleep, who has to drive their children more, who has more errands. And if you shared that you had an amazing worry free weekend, people would judge you. They would say something like, well, not everyone is a lucky as you, or no everyone’s life is as simple as yours, or my favorite – oh, to be young again.

I’ve seen this with clothes too… My friend once came into the office wearing a designer dress. Instead of admiring her dress, people started to make comments about how not everyone is as rich as she is and not everyone has as much money to spend on themselves, so on, so forth. Meanwhile, the truth was that the said dress came from a basement store and cost twenty dollars.

I often received a similar reaction during lunchtime at the office. People would come up to me commenting about how my food was too healthy for them. Or how they hate vegetables. Meanwhile I was just trying to enjoy my tomato salad and remember to chew with my mouth closed.

This my-life-is-harder-than-your-life, I-have-less-than-you, my-habits-are-worse-than-your-habits competition seems to be quite prevalent in the 9-5 world.

And it is also prevalent in the spiritual community. But here it is more about the deepness, the harshness, the pain experienced while healing. I hear people comparing notes – the bigger the pain, the more they feel they accomplished.

This does not apply to only pain. The more intense the experience in either direction, pain or utter joy, the more people feel they have accomplished.

This makes me wonder: are we addicted to emotions? Any kind of emotion – positive or negative? Have we numbed ourselves in this everyday life so much that we must chase a feeling, any feeling? Must a healing be intense in order for us to feel that we got something out of it? Are we looking to win the my-healing-was-harder-than-your-healing competition?

And is there an alternative; can spirit work subtly, gently, lovingly? Without the headaches, without the crying, without the emotional roller coaster?

Many people, especially women, have shared with me stories about their “no pain, no gain” experience in healing – how hard and uncomfortable it was and how they wished there was another way. Granted, sometimes this approach is necessary. But at other times, it is counterproductive. It causes people to run, to turn away to retreat into numbness or to keep looking for intensity, getting caught up chasing a feeling – any feeling.

I’d like to offer you an idea that there is an alternative – a middle ground between numbness and experience. A reality where life does not have to be complicated and healing does not have to be hard.

One where we can go inside in the most gentle and sacred way. Where new pain is not required to deal with old pain. Where softness and power are not mutually exclusive. Where intuition is a soft, almost unnoticeable feeling that that you know was birthed by the divine. Where a hug is more powerful than a whip…

To quote one of my favorite poems: “a flower cannot be opened with a hammer.

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