Sometimes it Hurts

The thing about spiritual awakening is that sometimes it hurts.

We talk a lot about the way that everything gets a little brighter and how the world transforms before your eyes.  We relish describing how there’s this bottomless well of love hidden right inside your own chest and the way that your relationships – with yourself, with others, with the earth, with god – suddenly and drastically change for the better once you learn how to tap into it.  We take joy in sharing the beauty of the journey; but what we often fail to mention is all of the pain that must be endured along the way.

We neglect to talk about how much your feet start to grow tired and eventually bleed as you learn how to walk through rather than around the thorns and barbs in your path.  And we forget to mention that courage doesn’t just happen; that you have to face your deepest fears and stand in the darkest of your inner shadows before you learn how to become the light.  We don’t talk much about the way that your concept of self is shaken until the meat of your identity begins to fall off; or how, even after that, your bones continue to rattle until even they turn to dust lying at the feet of your naked soul.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to call the process emerging rather than awakening.  Awakening deceptively illustrates the process as an effortless transition from the dream landscape of the unconscious to the sharp brightness of reality, wherein the closest thing to pain is a few stiff muscles easily alieved by a short stretch.  The word emerging, on the other hand, implies struggle.  You don’t emerge effortlessly; emerging is something that must be done in steps, each of which can only be taken because you grew stronger by taking the one before it.

The first step is perhaps the hardest, because it requires the kind of bravery that one only develops in the face of immense fear, the kind of fear that comes from challenging core assumptions.  When your foundational beliefs are questioned, the ground beneath your feet begins to tremble and shake.  Up and down begin looking eerily alike and the only certainty is that you still exist somewhere in between them.

This is how we learn courage.

It’s not by avoiding fear but by walking into it that we learn how to rise above it.  Then you discover the courage of your spirit – it’s not your mind or your muscles that put your feet in motion, but something far stronger, and deeper, pulling you forward from the inside until you finally crack the inner layer of your shell.

But this is only the first step.

Emerging requires more than just growing tired of confinement.  You have to break free; you must strip away layer after layer of who you have learned to be before you can get to the truth of who you really are.  Stripping away layers of self can be painful, and it can be frightening.   We deposit our beliefs, our assumptions, expectations, and definitions over our souls one layer at a time until they harden into a sort of shell behind which hides our true self – that wild, free, formless, beautiful energy that we call the spirit.  The longer that this shell remains in place, the more it begins to attach itself to the tender spirit beneath, so that peeling it away tests and pulls at the spirit. It can hurt but it also makes it that much stronger.

Usually these layers don’t just fall away easily like dead skin.  They have to be pulled away, like ripping flesh from the bone.  But, with each layer that gets pulled away, the light within shines through a little more.  And if we keep tugging at all of the things that we thought we should be, eventually we strip away that final layer to discover the true intensity of who we really are.

That’s the truth of it.  It hurts.  It’s frightening.  But it’s the most worthwhile challenge that you will ever go through.

Once all of those layers have been stripped away, you discover what it means to breathe.  You marvel at how you didn’t know that you were suffocating; and you can imagine no greater purpose than to help others find their breath.  You no longer fear shadows because you have become the source of the light.  You can be truly happy because you aren’t always fighting against unhappiness.

This is what it means when we say that if you run from the shadow you also run from the light, or that to know love you must be willing to walk through fear.

A flower cannot bloom without first suffering the darkness of being a buried seed.  A bird cannot learn to fly without first facing the fear of falling.  And you, my friend, cannot emerge without first suffering the process of tearing away at what confines you.

©2015 Cristen Rodgers

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Cristen Rodgers

I'm just a woman who is helplessly in love with words and passionate about spiritual development. Spiritual author, blogger, and essayist at Journeys in Spirit

39 thoughts on “Sometimes it Hurts

  1. A rose never blooms under darkness,
    Nor from ice spread over too thickly.
    But a rose is a flower, regardless:
    Though its thorns are too sharp and prickly.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Honestly, I can’t believe I actually used such a cliché comment. I sincerely apologize. Honestly, I have an opinion about your post, but it may be off base. I am reminded of my Comparative Religions class as well as Hinduism & Buddhism. For me, “courage” is the key word here. The first Noble Truth in Buddhism is to accept one’s mortality, which, ironically, is easier than it sounds. None of us knows what we are going to do when we are faced with our own demise, thus, if one does not have the courage to live, than can hardly have the courage to love. In so many words. I was diagnosed with HCV as well as another liver disease, this one hereditary, five years ago and have since been exploring my own mortality through literature & poetry, hence my blog and the title, which is an ideal of John Keats. The Vale of Soul-making. I could turn this into an essay but that being said… I think you write very well and I find your ideal of spirituality intriguing.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. What gives me courage to face my own impermanence and the impermanence of my family, my society, my species and even potentially this biosphere, it the creativity and long life of the universe itself. Throughout the universe it is reasonable to assume that biosphere’s like Earth’s will continue to arise and struggle for continuity. The universe is young. It is only 14 billion years old but has perhaps 150 trillion years of life in it. If this early in the life the of the universe, something as miraculously beautiful as the Earth has already arisen, then surely in 10 thousand times as much time ahead, even more beauty will come into being. As a living being, I take heart that the effort of Life for continuity, while a long shot on the scale of an individual biosphere, is virtually a sure thing given the size and long life of the Universe.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Cristen, lovely to meet you and read your words. I thoroughly enjoyed your ability to articulate (and with humour) the ’emerging struggle and pain’ of becoming. I smiled knowingly as I read your words. It was only when I read the following quote I found myself needing to investigate my feelings.
    “and you can imagine no greater purpose than to help others find their breath.”
    This is evident within all that I write; however, I have no desire (these days) to place the needs (or growth) of others before my own. Today I desire to become all that I know I am as a consciousness. I, pleasantly, constantly challenge myself by all that I write (or, more appropriately) that which is written through me. Hopefully, others benefit, and I genuinely hope this to be the case. However, once again, it is my progress which is of optimum importance. Learning, and becoming, takes every breath, every commitment, and constant consistency. I would love to have company on my journey, equal in fidelity and dedication. Hopefully, this will come.
    Thank You for allowing me, through your words, to find my own.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m happy to hear that it resonated, Carolyn; and thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. It does indeed require every thought, movement, and breath to continue learning and becoming. Perhaps it is through that focus that we already know we are helping others as well. It’s a pleasure to meet you, beautiful soul! Namaste 🙏🏽

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s nice that you have come to the point of not fearing the shadows because you have become the light. I have accepted that I am the light but I’m still struggling against the suffering and fully becoming the light. Thank you for your beautiful writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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