Always face what haunts you. To rob it of its mystery is to rob it of its power. Always face what challenges you! Then the worst things you can imagine will always be behind you. Then, everything ahead of you is freedom.
Suffering is not the enemy of our liberation. It is not something to be fled, in pursuit of enlightenment, glory, or peace. Neither is it somehow our pleasure, however. Suffering is painful, not pleasant. Yet the nature behind suffering, and its destiny, must be as cosmically beneficial as the nature of its creator is. Every sage will teach that suffering is unavoidable. But this is paired with labeling it as an illusion or a distraction from the Truth. Instead, it is the crucible, the revealing fire of what is true. Suffering is the teacher of the deepest grace. It gives to each an opportunity: to elect it of their own will and face it to galvanize their growth, or to flee it and by the looming dread of it create their own suffering. By this, sufferings both threaten and also provide the avenue to emerge from under the grip of its power.
Don’t flee. Face it. It’s but a shadow. As you look it in the eye, all that will remain is what lights the Way.
“For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields […] righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
In his meditations, Marcus Aurelius said that, “the impediment to action advances action; that which stands in the way becomes the Way.” From this wisdom it becomes plain that the adversities we face are not mere obstacles to the good life, they are its avenues. Each and every trial we encounter, is not another hurdle to living a peaceful life, they define the life of peace: carving its careful form out of the miry clay of existence.
While sages and saints of all shades and colors have theorized about the nature of suffering as the ultimate antagonist to our human story, the antagonist is none-the-less essential.
The moment you stop viewing yourself as the main character in your narrative: running up against the enemy who haunts you ceaselessly, and instead: begin enjoying your story as a composition of literary brilliance… your perspective on the interplay of its hero and villains will begin to change. No longer is the enemy of your story one who threatens your happiness, but they are a tool in your story its author has written to guide and propel you toward growth and the good.
The game of life is played out, between who we are and will become. There are ten thousand doors to take, but the one with the greatest shadows always marks the presence of that next “boss battle” of life. Take your time if you must, yet you must pass through that door to advance.
Should fear of its difficulty inhibit you, you will remain under the threat of its tribulation. Yet should an ardent desire for growth surpass this, open that door and stand fast! The moment you pass through, its fear of death gives way to love for life, and the gravest of its tribulations into the greatest blessings of providence.
Those who walk the Way are Knights. We do not merely defend the castles of our soul. We venture out, into the unknown, to find the hidden monsters whose legends spread the shadows of fear.