I was listening to a talk show about depression, and the guest “expert” being interviewed was talking about the complexities and spectrum of the condition. At one point he said he wished there were just an antibiotic or pill he could take that would just get rid of it. I mean, it is a tempting thought, isn’t it? My first thought though was, OMG No! And he’s encouraging this kind of thinking on a national radio show? The idea that it would be better to just take some thing and have a mental imbalance magically go away, without any work on our part, which of course is impossible and unrealistic, is feeding our culture’s growing unwillingness to do what is necessary to heal and to grow, an integral part of just being a resilient and wise human.
But let’s look at this a little more comprehensively. Let’s say we take that pill and that symptom goes away. Sounds so easy doesn’t it? But then what? As human beings are we really meant to not feel pain or suffering ever? Is that the best way to learn? Is that the best way to grow? Taking something to alleviate pain and suffering on one hand could mean we might have more room for the goodies like creativity or fun. But would we be satisfied with only that? Would we learn in that context? I wonder if anyone has ever done this? Maybe it isn’t possible. So we are back to having some level of pain and suffering. I see it as more of a spectrum, and our response to it creating our daily reality. While we don’t have full control over what life presents us, we can cultivate an awareness that pierces the veil whenever we do have suffering, and creates a rich, dynamic, even profound experience when presented with challenges. The epiphanies and awakenings that ensue from this connects us to the “luminous filaments that connect us with our origins in the stars…magic” as Don Oscar Miro-Quesada says.
We have this idea somehow that advances in medicine and technology should just eradicate human discomfort. But what if that was never our highest aim in the first place? What if being human and experiencing the psycho-emotional pain when it arises, developing dominion over our mind in that humanity and merged with something transcendent, and our free will to make the choice to suffer based on our awareness, is exactly what being human is meant to be? The Buddhist-attributed saying, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional,” speaks to the difference between unavoidable human pain and the consciousness that chooses suffering in the mind as a response. I’m not at all suggesting that medicine can’t help alleviate many physical ailments and severe mental illness. I’m simply pointing to the mindset we are encouraging that seeks first to take something to eradicate psychological discomfort to the exclusion of the deep inner work required to break through the morass of long-conditioned unhealthy thinking that causes our daily suffering.
How many people do you know who do the diligent daily work to heal their woundedness, their depression, their dysfunctional family dynamics, their victim consciousness, and resolve their issues? How many people do you know who put as much time into thriving as a human being on the emotional and psychological level, which means healing those wounds and having daily strategies for Joy and Gratitude, as they do getting in shape and eating better, or having sex, or finding a relationship? Heck, even going out for happy hour? We are shocked and dismayed that things aren’t working out for us and we wonder why. We get upset because work, or relationships aren’t going the way we thought they would. And we wonder why. We are likely doing very little true deep inner work to resolve the issues, Self-Facilitative work that only we can do. Therapy and coaching are very helpful for guidance, for uncovering causes of suffering and learning to make better choices, but without learning how to responsibly facilitate ourselves through a process to resolution, we constantly get stuck and discouraged. Many people doing certain types of therapy have said that they got more from a few sessions with me or other guides who teach self-facilitation, than they did in 20 years of traditional therapy. Because they start experiencing the larger picture, and their responsibility and access at a soul level to heal and thrive. I hear this from other coaches and counselors all the time when they are effective and really good at what they do. Our greatest love is to teach someone how to fish, not to give them a fish…to work toward setting them free from regular dependent sessions because they are equipped to facilitate themselves at a high level through life, to model a thriving, conscious, aware human being who chooses a compassionate and graceful response to the inevitable pain, and is now able to traverse the territory with self-love and wisdom.
I do see a reality where we experience ourselves with the capacity to hold a transcendent view of the earthly sufferings, to guide ourselves back to peace and acceptance. I do believe that without working through life’s challenges, our innate wisdom atrophies and we miss the most profound and rich parts of being human.
I remember, many years ago, sitting in a meditation group with a teacher I respect very much, arriving feeling very alone in the world. About halfway through I experienced the most sublime aliveness, and the loneliness disappeared. I haven’t felt lonely since.
As we enter the colder darker winter months, it is an invitation to quiet into the inner self and cultivate this wiser and more integrated spiritual human experience. The holidays can also be very triggering for people, and this is rich territory to do the work. I wish each of us the strength and support to dive into these waters of suffering when they arise for us, and experience the truth that sets us free.
If you would like some guidance in finding your own innate wisdom, please reach out to me at email@example.com, or visit www.innertegrity.com/sessions.