Contrary to popular opinion, the goal of doing spiritual work or self-improvement isn’t that we never struggle again. According to Buddhist teachings, life on this plane, by definition, includes suffering. In my view, we’re here in physical form to learn and grow, and these lessons will include struggle.
We are emotional beings. Challenges will arise in our lives, and that will spark feelings of sorrow, anger, grief, fear, frustration, and disappointment, to name just a few. Sometimes, though, we make our struggles and lessons harder than they need to be.
I find that my resistance to my not-so-pleasant emotions only makes them more tenacious. “Not this again!” my monkey-mind whines. That resistance simply adds to the impact and duration of whatever tough feelings I’m already wrestling with.
What if, instead of clenching your fists and railing against your struggle, you let go and relaxed into it?
When you allow an emotion to flow through you, without the added resistance, it doesn’t actually last that long. Did you ever have a good sobbing cry, and then feel fully refreshed afterwards?
But how long were your emotions building up under the surface before you released them in the form of tears? Often we try to bottle up our emotions, to keep them hidden from ourselves and the rest of the world.
When that happens, you’re blocking a major opportunity for growth.
Emotions are guideposts, signs that point to something within you that may not be in alignment with who you truly are. When you explore them and allow them to lead you inward, you’ll discover new things about yourself and what you need and want.
Suffering and struggle, when approached mindfully, can lead to self-discovery.
Often our most powerful negative emotions point directly to something that can help us overcome the struggle.
There are many examples of things that might help: seeking support, having a difficult conversation with someone about your personal boundaries, acknowledging the progress you’ve already made, letting go of an action or habit that no longer serves you, or taking some time to do more deep inner work. Those are just a few possibilities.
By listening to yourself, even the unpleasant, whiny voices, you’ll discover clues to further growth.
That personal growth, while it won’t permanently relieve you of suffering, will help you be more joyful, more creative, kinder, and more effective as a soulful change-maker as you move through this world.
It’s worth all the tears you’ll shed.