Pain, Suffering, and Spiritual Reality
I’ve occasionally had clients confess to me that they feel spiritually inadequate because they haven’t been able to make themselves feel okay in a bad situation.
“I should be able to manifest something better,” they tell themselves, or “I should be able to control how I feel about what is happening.” Blaming the situation seems like spiritual weakness.
My feeling about this is “Umm, what?”
Maybe it’s because all of my spiritual practices have emerged from the basic intuitive practice of simply noticing what I feel and allowing those feelings to reveal meaning, but I see it completely differently.
Bad feelings are communication. Yes, you may benefit or learn from them and sometimes you can’t change the situation causing them, but they show up to tell you something is not okay for you and that’s worth paying attention to.
Back in the period when I was internally debating my way into a spiritual path at this point in my life and obsessed with trying to understand what everyone else seemed to believe, I had coffee with someone with a new friend.
As I asked her about her worldview, she got into talking about how material reality did not on some level matter in any reality way and somehow we ended up in a disagreement about whether it would matter if I shot her right then and there in the coffee shop.
I kept saying, “Yes. It matters. Physical pain is literally an indication of something being wrong.” The way I see it, the existence of pain and suffering is the whole basis of morality. Pain tells you something is bad.
Her argument was essentially that spiritual reality was the real reality and that what happens in the material world is not real in any way that matters.
This is a kind of sophistry that is hard to debate your way out of. This morning I found myself thinking of this and thinking I should have grabbed her wrist and twisted it. “Does that matter?” I would ask her. “Isn’t that different than having a nice chat?” I would push until she cried out in physical and intellectual defeat.
No, of course I don’t mean that. I would never do that. Even the thought of it makes me uncomfortable, but I stand by the point. I wouldn’t want to hurt her because it would be a real thing that would cause her suffering. I can work up a philosophical view that denies this, but no matter how compelling the ideas were, they simply wouldn’t reflect the world we live in. The body’s pain is not something you can wish away. You can decide you do not care about material reality, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. You can deny pain caused but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
When I do a reading, the spiritual reality I tap into is not disconnected from the physical, tangible, and social reality that we live in. I might bring up the lingering effects of a relationship from decades past because it’s still present in a person’s energy. I might feel the physical pain they feel or their confusion.
Mind and spirit are interconnected with matter. Mental and spiritual practices can affect physical reality, but they aren’t some magical overwrite code. The various kind of feelings we feel can reveal a lot about what we need, what is okay for us, and what is not okay for us. Bad feelings are communication, not weakness or spiritual failure.