I recently came across this Eckhart Tolle quote:
"Is suffering really necessary?
Yes and no.
If you had not suffered as you have, there would be no depth to you as a human being, no humility, no compassion. You would not be reading this now.
Suffering cracks open the shell of ego, and then comes a point when it has served it's purpose.
Suffering is necessary until you realize it is unnecessary."
Upon reflection, I would word this truth differently.
Say not that suffering is unnecessary! Such a statement is too slippery, and many people may easily slide down into stagnation due to misinterpretation. As Tolle says:
"If you had not suffered as you have, there would be no depth to you as a human being, no humility, no compassion."
Is our depth finite? Do we have a maximum capacity for humility, for compassion? Has anyone ever, will any of us ever attain the pinnacle of spiritual evolution?
Such questions are absurd. What we call 'suffering' is the pressure-cooker which transmutes us, the essential catalyst for the evolution of consciousness. As such, 'suffering' is, and always will be, a necessary ingredient for spiritual growth.
If any readers are of the opinion that 'enlightenment' is a static state representing the epitome of spiritual evolution, well... you may as well quit reading now. The journey never ends. Not for Buddha, not for Jesus, and certainly not for you and me.
However, there is a fundamental shift at a certain point in every individual's timeline of spiritual growth, a shift which could, in fact, be seen as a cessation of 'suffering.'
It occurs when the individual has:
a) become conscious of the unsurpassed joy which accompanies true spiritual evolution
b) understood that this joy is only attainable through the uncomfortable process of 'sitting in the fire,' an experience also known as the ubiquitous 'long dark night of the soul'
and c) decided to consciously devote themselves to this never-ending process.
At this point, the experience of 'suffering' becomes something consciously undertaken by the individual in order to grow. This person has become an empowered agent in their own spiritual evolution, and now actively seeks out experiences which will challenge, test, and further 'cook' (so to speak) the 'self.'
Such a one has, essentially, become their own catalyst.
This can be seen clearly in looking at our prayers. It begins when our prayers shift away from something like this:
"Please relieve me of this pain, I can't take it anymore."
and evolve into something like this:
"Please bless me with whatever I need in order to grow."
Upon inviting, even embracing, those difficult times which we know are necessary for transformation, 'suffering' is no longer the same. It is no longer something happening to us, but becomes a struggle we have intentionally entered into so that we may relish in the sacred ecstasy of moving closer towards that which we truly are.
We have sought it out and freely chosen it, and thus we give thanks for it.
This crucial transition - from habitually moving away from discomfort to consistently going towards it - represents a critical initiation point for any genuine truth-seeker. The moment one wholeheartedly demonstrates one's devotion to an 'authentic' (read: 'real fucking uncomfortable') path of spiritual growth is the moment one becomes empowered as the primary agent of change within oneself.
It is this shift in consciousness which is currently underway throughout out global collective. In greater and greater numbers, we are learning to turn towards our own darkness, to move into that which we find extremely uncomfortable.
This is an incredible moment in our collective spiritual evolution, for it marks to beginnings of us becoming collectively empowered as the primary change-makers within our world.