Rethinking Suffering

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I have a confession to make: I want everything to be easy. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. I think we all want a life of ease and comfort, but I had a conversation recently that irrevocably shifted my perspective.

My dear friend Amal is super into astrology. I don’t mean the “Now is a good time to ask for a raise” kind of astrology that you find at the back of Cosmo magazine. I mean the highly accurate, “Here are the overarching themes and archetypes of your life,” kind of astrology. He recently gave me an impromptu reading (over text message no less!) that rocked my world. He told me if he were to characterize my life as a movie, it would be about a woman who wants to make it in the world, concretely, in her career or in a way that gets her recognition. And furthermore, because of other planetary placements, my career, vocation, and recognition in the world are also where I’ll feel the most blocked.

Our greatest struggle could become our greatest asset.

Ding, ding, ding. Right on the money. When he said that to me, I wanted to burrow under the covers because it was in that moment I realized this is going to be a life-long struggle. As I wrote about in my last post, succeeding in my career will not be as easy as tuning into a 90-minute webinar, as much as I’d like to believe it would. That’s not the movie I’m in.

He said to me, “Listen, your challenges are what set you up for your greatest potential. If you look at the chart of a famous or accomplished person, it’s not their ‘easy’ or ‘harmonious’ aspects that they express so powerfully. The easy stuff comes automatically; you get lazy about it. No, you look to the hard aspects, the challenges. The challenges are the blueprints of your greatest possible destiny.”

He then proceeded to give me several examples of people with hard aspects who have done something incredible, such as Pope Francis, William Blake, and Bach. It was then I realized my struggles, the places where I suffer, are where power and metamorphosis rest.

My spiritual teacher wrote a letter to his followers and one line of it, which I’m paraphrasing, is “Suffering will be your asset.” I used to think he meant suffering will be our asset because suffering is what builds character, or encourages people to turn to spirituality, or to make changes in the world – and all of that is true – but I’m also starting to think he meant suffering is what forces us, personally, to achieve greatness. It’s when we can work with the hard parts of our lives, when we integrate the things we disown, that we radically transform ourselves and the world.

I dream of a world where we use the hard parts of our lives, the places where we struggle and suffer, to spur us forward. A world where we turn those challenges into our assets. A world where we work with those energies to accomplish something truly great and long-lasting.

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