“One of the greatest obstacles to the embodiment of awakening – the full filtering into our everyday lives of the realization of awakening, of awakeness – one of the greatest obstacles to that is this idea that suffering comes to a complete end. It’s an idea that is very prevalent in traditional spiritual teachings that tend to focus on the transcendent, clear light of awareness, and also has filtered into many modern-day non-dual teachings, where suffering is seen to be an illusion. …
Consider the possibility that the darkest places in our inner experience are doorways to liberation. Without the honest examination of that, in one’s own experience, awakeness cannot be fully integrated into the human experience. And this is perhaps true. And I say from a place of having spoken to many people, in many different cultures, in many different settings, from many different backgrounds, and from many levels of experience if you like, on the spiritual path. It comes up over and over again, in lots of different guises. Either prior to awakening, or post-awakening. Either way, it’s the same obstacle.
The idea prior to awakening – that awakening will take away all pain, will take away all suffering, that we will live in some kind of unfeeling state, perhaps you could call that bliss, but it sounds like numbness to me – is a big illusion itself and interferes with the full flowering of awakeness. It’s the expectation that gets in the way. As long as we expect awakening to be a particular way, or to bring a particular state, or to make our lives conform to how we wish them to be, in order to take away any discomfort or challenge or pain or suffering that is currently being experienced, that very expectation is what stands in the way of the full bud of awakening bursting through and having the opportunity to authentically integrate into everyday life. So that’s the kind of clue, it’s the expectation, the agenda.
Post-awakening, post-realization, when we’ve awakened out of the dream of separation, there can also be a hindrance in that any dark knots of energetic contraction that continue to appear, any challenging feelings, any pain, any physical pain, any emotional pain, if these still appear and continue to be experienced, there can be a subtle avoiding. And that avoidance creates or perpetuates an inner division, which means that we have not totally woken up out of the dream of separation. Inner division means that something is avoided, something is denied, there is still a subtle separation between the awake state and the often still-turbulent experience of living as a human being. It sounds in some ways simple, and you’ve probably heard some of this before – spiritual bypassing and all this – but to authentically examine oneself, where those vestiges of separation still play themselves out, where there’s still a holding on to some pristine state of awakeness, requires a real ruthless turning in & self-exposure, an honesty that is often quite painful. Because it’s very likely that even after awakeness has been realized, that the human journey still continues, that certain perhaps traumas, or let’s call them energies, coalesced energies, areas we have not previously met, continue to appear, not because there’s something wrong, but because they’re an invitation to an even deeper embodiment of awakeness. Every dark knot, every difficult feeling, everything we may call suffering, is the opportunity to sit inside it, to be crucified & resurrected. It’s the invitation for deep intimacy that is often overlooked with everything that appears as part of the human experience. Human experience is wavy – it comes in waves. It goes up & down; in & out; dark & light. Everything is included in that. It’s the opportunity for every vestige of inner darkness that remains, of inner division, of everything that has been denied, to be welcomed into the clear light of awareness, into the openness, into the vulnerability, into the tenderness, and deep intimacy with each moment as it arises.
That’s not to say that the story of suffering continues. The victim is no longer there. But what we may call suffering, as the exquisite agony of meeting pain as it arises whether that be physical pain, the pain of loss, the pain of heartbreak, the pain of failure, may still arise. And in the meeting of that in the awake space, it doesn’t stick. It pierces the heart all the way. It breaks the heart open. It’s exquisite. It’s bitter-sweet. But it doesn’t remain as a story of being a victim. It doesn’t remain because it’s (no longer being) denied and tucked into the shadows. It doesn’t remain to play itself out again. It’s as if that particular karma has been totally released. It totally dissolves. And that’s a purification that happens if we’re willing to meet everything.
Neem Karoli Baba said ‘I love suffering. It brings me closer to God.’ Suffering is a doorway. It’s not the end – it’s a means to an end. It’s the doorway. It’s the doorway to the kind of joy that is like a bubbling brook behind everything, beneath everything. A joy that has nothing to do with being happy or being sad. A joy that has nothing to do with things going your way. A joy that has nothing to do with what it looks like, or feels like in your imagination to be spiritual or to be awakened. Everything is included. Everything is embraced. And the grace of it is that the external world is likely to mirror that internal non-attachment, non-craving, non-aversion. It mirrors it by not recreating the trauma, by not recreating a story of poor me. There’s no self invested in the circumstances that appear, whether those circumstances are good or bad. There is no inner division in that.
In fact everything is seen as good. Even the most challenging experience contains the seed of light. That’s how we evolve, and grow out of the immaturity of believing that awakening or being spiritual should look like any particular fantasy we have around that. As we have the courage to do this, then everything comes rushing forwards, everything. Everything in our own personal history, everything perhaps from our karmic history, everything comes rushing in, because everything yearns to be met. Everything yearns to resolve itself in love – that love being the open space of acceptance, of allowing, of staying resolutely present, and unconditionally open to every nuance of your inner experience. In that way, awakeness can filter into every aspect of your life. Every interaction, every experience, every relationship, in the deepest intimacy of your own experience, that’s the place, that’s the place where a radical self-exposure is called for. An honesty to simply see where there is any avoidance, any turning away from, any strategy or maneuver to escape what is being offered here, in this moment, in each moment. In that way, suffering becomes the doorway to grace. Suffering is no longer an entrapment, no longer a limitation – neither something to be clung to as a story of drama or trauma, not to be avoided, not to be denied, not to be escaped from.
In that way, the divided mind, the mind that divides its experience into good & bad, right & wrong, should & shouldn’t, awake & unawake, spiritual & unspiritual, the mind that divides, categorizes every aspect of its experience, is crucified. It has no escape route. All strategies, all maneuvers, all contortions, all acrobatics come to a stop. It’s not the suffering that stops. It’s the mind’s acrobatics that stop. And out of that crucifixion, you are resurrected. You are resurrected as the light which has no division in it. In that sense you are liberated from any notion of suffering. You are liberated from any notion of awakening. You are liberated from any idea of being spiritual. Life is fully lived, and yet you do not find your self in that. You are not invested in the circumstances of life, in the events of life, in the waves that rise & fall. In that sense, you live selflessly. To live selflessly is to have no expectation or agenda. To meet each moment in the openness of who you really are.”
Amoda Maa. "Surfing the Heart of Darkness: Suffering as a Doorway to Liberation." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXlUsBYbv0w
Amoda Maa: "Surfing the Heart of Darkness: Suffering as a Doorway to Liberation."