Following up on the idea that spirituality isn’t about being happy all the time, let’s talk about intentionally leaving happiness behind…
We’re all familiar with the idea that our souls will—if we listen—lead us in the right direction.
Forward and onward, towards a life of purpose and transformation.
But what do you do when the way ahead is shut?
When the best direction you can take, is behind you?
When is suffering the right choice?
We’ve all been there…
Trapped… Going in circles…
Feeling like you can’t move forward…
You know you aren’t in the right place. But you don’t know how to change things.
Maybe it’s something small… Like a project. Or an obligation. Or a disagreement with a friend.
Maybe it’s something big… Like your career. Or your relationship. Or your whole damn life.
Either way, it can put you into a place where you need to make some uncomfortable decisions.
And sometimes our expectations about life and spirituality can make things even harder…
This last year has been a difficult one for me.
I had to start over in almost every way.
I left my home… My friends… My animals..
And a marriage that, I finally had to admit, was never going to change.
It took me a long time to work up the courage to do it…
Because I didn’t want to give up.
Because I knew how much I’d leave behind.
Because I knew how hard it would be…
But I also knew that it was the right choice.
And that, as much as I would suffer, I would eventually be in a much better place.
It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made.
And I never would have made it if I had expected the world to hand me an easy answer.
The Promise of Painless Transformation
Popular spirituality likes to send the message that there’s always a happy way out. That there’s always a peaceful transition.
That the right path will always lead us to greater joy and fulfillment…
I get it. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hear that??
It gives us hope. And throws a warm blanket on our fears.
And in general, I actually agree with the part about greater joy and fulfillment…
But just because the future holds promise, doesn’t mean that the path is always upwards.
Just because we continue to grow, doesn’t mean that the transformation will be painless.
Sometimes there is no peaceful transition.
And the more we look for one—the more we wait for the upward path—the longer we stay stuck in the places we don’t belong.
We may be desperate. We may be despondent. But we stick around anyway…
Because the alternative looks even worse.
So we stay.
And the longer we wait, the worse it gets…
We know what we want our life to look like.. Our souls whisper, and sing, and pull towards the horizon.
And eventually that vision becomes it’s own source of pain, because we tell ourselves that there’s just no way to get there.
That we don’t know what to do.
But that’s the thing…
More often than not, we do.
We know how to get there.
We just know how much it’s going to suck!
One step back. Two steps forward.
Sometimes you have to take one step back in order to take two steps forward.
Sometimes you have to choose the path that you know is going to hurt…
It’s not about giving up.
It’s not about saying “fuck it!” and stomping on the gas in a race for rock bottom.
It’s about making the difficult choice…
Taking the path that you know is going to knock you on your ass, and leave you bruised and bloody…
But ultimately lead you to where you need to go.
You have to weigh the risks. Decide when to leap.
And then let yourself fall.
Don’t take the spiritual bypass.
Don’t just stuff your fears and repeat your affirmations.
Take the hits life gives you.
Let yourself cry. Let yourself be angry. Let yourself suffer.
You can take a lot more punishment than you think.
(This is the part where I get a hundred outraged emails from all the “spiritual” people who have risen above negative emotions and let go of lower vibrations..)
You just don’t want to linger once the suffering becomes sticky…
The Fine Art of Suffering
There’s a point when we stop feeling our pain and start wallowing in it.
When we quit resting in fear. And start hanging on it.
When we take hold of the pain, and drive ourselves deeper.
That’s when it’s time to stop.
That’s when it’s time to break out the visualizations and focus on the bigger picture.
Find a distraction. Get out and move.
It’s not an easy balance…
You’ll slip one way; then the other.
Just keep going.
Bear the pain for a while. Then take a break and rise above it. Then back in again.
Back and forth—but always forward.
Don’t wait and hide behind the promise of painless transformation.
Sometimes the only way up, is down.
So, if you’re feeling stuck… Like you have no way out…
Ask yourself what you’d do if you weren’t afraid to fall.
Do you know what needs to be done?
Are you just scared to make the leap?
Ask yourself how hard it’s going to be.
Remember your soul’s vision. Remember what’s at stake.
And then ask yourself, is it worth it?
No promises. No spiritual safety nets.
Just courage. And a shot at something better…
We never know how things will turn out.
But I think that most of the time our souls are screaming for the chance—not the end result.
And that the pain of not trying is far worse than when things don’t pan out the way we hoped…
When I moved to the mountains to begin it all again, it was every bit as difficult as I imagined.
I was lonely and scared and isolated.
I had no guarantee that things would work out the way I wanted.
And for about 8 months, I took far more hits than wins.
But eventually things turned around…
I found new adventures, and new opportunities. A new home. New friendships. New passion, and new love.
(And new courage… Because if I can make it through that, I can make it through anything!)
Even though I can never replace the things that I lost—my life has changed for the better in almost every conceivable way.
And none of it would have happened if I hadn’t been willing to let go, and go backwards.
Something to consider if you’re stuck and can’t see the way forward…
It’s never an easy decision. And it’s never fun.
But sometimes suffering is the best, most rewarding choice you’ll ever make.
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About Zach Herbert
I teach people to do cool things with their consciousness, and break their brains with beautiful ideas.
Professional heretic. Unlikely mystic. Host to rebels, misfits and independent thinkers.
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