Enlightenment By Way of Pain

I’m a recovering narcissist. And maybe I still relapse occasionally. Okay, so I had a relapse yesterday. I was certain the reason my neighbor moved suddenly and without a word was because of me. Because of me and my music and he must have hated my guitar playing and my essential oil smells wafting through the walls and…

I couldn’t get this guilty narcissistic mind chatter to stop, so I went to the landlord to get the scoop. And you know what she said? She said it wasn’t me. It was him. He hadn’t cleaned his apartment in the whole year he’d lived there, so he packed everything up and asked for a new apartment in the same complex. I’m sorry, but what? You can do that? Just not clean for a year and then leave to avoid the mess? She said yes, people do that.

This made me think how we do this with our insides. (You know how I like to relate everything to the inner journey. It really IS the only journey isn’t it?) If we address our pain right away, it’s a lot easier to deal with things. Let it fester, and we’ve got a mess on our hands—maybe a resentment that leads to a weekend bender, a divorce, or a distance between hearts that grows vaster with time. Or worse, some kind of massive gap between our true north and the north we’re following in reality. And it’s really hard to turn things around when time has its hold on gaps like that.

I’m not always good at it, but it’s important to me, this emotional housecleaning thing. It takes willingness and courage to heed the signs right up front, to own my part, to drop my defenses, and observe my pain from all angles—essentially using my pain as a tool for growth instead of an excuse for suffering. And while it’s tempting (and awfully popular these days) to just proclaim instant love and light when the pain strikes, this can also turn into a form of avoidance. I’m not disagreeing that love and light is all there is, but just how do we get to this enlightenment?

By washing my emotional dishes after every meal instead of leaving them in the sink to grow mold, I’ve worked myself out of a life-long depression, troublesome binge drinking, compulsive eating, and other dark abysses where I hope none of you ever have to go. But you probably have. Which is why you’re reading this.

Which brings me to why I’m writing this. Because, I know you can do this. I know we can do this. By addressing fears, resentments, and jealousies up front, we transform our lives. By living in the now when our “now” is pain, emotional maladies become a sort of road map for us. They show us where to go, where not to go, what we value, what we don’t. If we are willing and have the courage, they lead us down to the core of our truest selves. It’s pure there. It’s clean. Simple, raw, and real. And we crave that. Don’t we?

And this is uncanny, but the maintenance guys are carrying my neighbor’s old toilet down the stairs as I’m writing this. (I’m not making this up). Are you for real, Mr. Ex-Neighbor? They had to remove your toilet? It was that bad?

Wow, it really does come down to this. Addressing pain=spiritual freedom. Avoiding=prolonged suffering. So what will it be
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