There is no right or wrong way to live. There is only life, experience, and the wisdom gained through living. But by nature, we are designed to seek comfort, become bored with comfort, seek adventure, and seek comfort again. It keeps us busy, gets us in trouble, helps us procreate (often connected with getting into trouble), and forces us to continue to experience life and gain more wisdom.
Most of us tend to learn the hard way, for a while. But sooner or later we begin to catch on and learn what makes us happy, what keeps us safe, what makes us bored, and what gets us into trouble.
But along the way, in the process of learning what we need to know, we tend to pick up a lot of stuff we don’t need, like fear, anger, sadness, and other unpleasantness. We can accumulate quite a bundle, and for a while it can seem like the more we have, the more we attract.
At some point, when we’ve had lots of ups and downs, and have a big bundle of stuff stuck to us, we get so we can’t budge. It gets hard to connect with ourselves and other people, because of all the stuff in the way. We’re what the psychologists call “stuck”.
Because we’ve picked up some religion or spiritual training along the way, we might say to God, “Help!”. “Get me out of this mess.” “Help me feel love.”
That’s when things start to get really interesting. And by interesting, I mean more difficult, and more painful. There we are with all our accumulated stuff, saying “Help me get through the door to love”. And life responds by going “Hell yeah! Let’s clear that stuff so you can”.
The tricky part is that the only way to move the stuff off is by calling it to our attention, so we can release it. So life starts to trigger our fear, anger, sadness, whatever, over, and over, and over. It’s the answer to our prayer, but it doesn’t feel much like it.
Our stuff gets triggered repeatedly, up in our face, precisely so we can be aware of it, and let it go. But because we’re trained to seek comfort, instead of getting present with what’s coming up, looking at it, and releasing it, we avoid feeling it any way possible. Neurotic behavior, drugs, alcohol, compulsions, overeating, talking too much… we’ll do whatever can distract us from the pain. And that keeps us stuck longer. For a while we can sort of cover over the stuff, dress it up, make it look pretty. But it’s still there, and it always comes back.
So here’s what I’ve learned about all this. The best way to make progress on a spiritual path is to watch for your stuff, and when you feel it, face it. Look at it, breathe, and let it go. It all happens in the heart, and it’s a lot of work.
It’s totally worth it.