The Value of Suffering
“Expanding consciousness is the riskiest enterprise on earth. We endanger the status quo. We endanger our comfort. And if we do not have the nerve to resolve the ensuring conflicts, we endanger our sanity.” – Marilyn Ferguson
“And I saw the river over which every soul must pass to reach the kingdom of heaven and the name of that river was suffering; and I saw the boat which carries souls across the river and the name of the boat was love.” – St. John of the Cross
“Privation and suffering alone can open the mind of a man to all that is hidden to others.” – Igjugarjuk Caribou Eskimo shaman
One could go on and on with quotes such as these about the role that suffering plays in spiritual transformation. About a year ago, I came across a book online by El Collie called Branded By the Spirit and it showed and explained like no other book I had come across the Kundalini awakening process using her own and others’ personal experiences. She was going through her own deeply powerful awakening process and found little support and accurate information from others—teachers, doctors, friends and family—so she started to read everything she could on the subject. Then she started a newsletter called Shared Transformation which allowed people going through their own awakening process to talk and share with one another. She compiled all that she learned over the years into her book and it helped me immensely in making sense of a process that few people seemed to explain clearly.
Her book, along with Joan Harrigan’s book Kundalini Vidya, and another book I recently discovered called The Biology of Kundalini by Jana Dixon, informed me greatly. And when I connected this information with Peter Levine’s book In an Unspoken Voice, especially his last chapter called “Trauma and Spirituality”, I began to see some deep connections and was comforted by the ability to make meaning of what I was (and likely many others are) going through and to see the value of suffering admit the turmoil.
As Joan Borysenko says, “If we have a strong belief that our suffering is in the service of growth, dark night experiences can lead us to depths of psychological and spiritual healing and revelation that we literally could not have dreamed of and that are difficult to describe in words without sounding trite.”
What is true about the Kundalini or the awakening process is that it is dangerous. It will lead one into the deepest, most unresolved places inside us—and to terror and rage. Without proper guidance, one can get in severe trouble. It is why I have great respect for those who aren’t ready to face their own demons. One can spend years coming to the edge and backing away. Whether it was because we are too afraid, whether we aren’t ready or because we haven’t yet found the proper guide or therapist, we back away. But finally, after many years of being battered, shattered, and strengthened, we will find a way in. We will find ourselves ready to touch into our deepest wounds, what Jung lovingly called “the patient’s secret, the rock against which he is shattered.”