No Pain, No Gain

Why the “love and light” side of spirituality is bullshit

We come into the world in a stark, painful way. I’m sure there’s a lot of symbolical beauty in the birthing process, but until I have my own children, I can only see it as a physically excruciating process. We sit inside our mother’s womb, pretty content with things. Its warm, there’s a constant flow of nutrients, and you’re protected from the elements. You’re conscious, but in a very primal way. Your biggest stress is if your mom moves abruptly and it shifts you slightly left. But then the body encompassing you decides its time. Hormones surge in and the uterus contracts and you’re kicked out. And by kicked out, I mean you go through what I believe is your first traumatic event as a human. Your soft, malleable skull is pushed through an opening 10 cm wide (at best). Your entire body is squeezed through the vaginal canal. You’re ejected from your warm safe haven into a cold world, literally and figuratively, covered in blood and amniotic fluid. You are thrown into a new reality where you know absolutely nothing and cannot recognize anything but your mother. The first sound you make as a human is a guttural cry, to purge your lungs. Not to mention you’ve put the person who literally gave you your life through possibly the worst pain of their life. The cord that served as your lifeline for 9 months is severed, and you’re a part of the world now. No big deal, I guess.

I think as humans we are meant to feel pain, physical and mental. Physical body pains usually serve as an insight to a bigger problem within, or at the very least, to make you aware that something is being neglected in your body. We bruise and cut and become sore, to serve as a reminder of what we did to receive those abrasions in the first place. And mental pain? Well, that’s the human condition, too. Birth is a traumatic event. Death is unknown to us until we cross that threshold. Why do we think the life to live in between these events will be painless?

I’ve always resonated with pain. Its brutal, its gut wrenching, but it’s life and I think that’s beautiful. How are we to appreciate the “good” emotions if we don’t feel the “bad” ones? I don’t even think emotions should be labelled good or bad. It’s all a spectrum that’s relative to our own lived experiences. And for me? Pain of all kinds has been central in my life. Its taught me to appreciate the good moments when they come, because I know they can be taken away. That may scare others, but it humbles me. I am at the mercy of being human, of feeling pain. And that’s the way it should be.

So, the way the internet and other spaces have taken spirituality and turned it into a “everything is peachy keen love and light rainbows and butterflies” thing is almost comical to me. You know, the people who tell you “everything will be ok” or “just think positively” or variations of that; it’s incorrect at best, and a gross overestimation of life, at worst. And while we’re at it, I use the term “spirituality” lightly. I really think spirituality is just coming back to ourselves. We lose ourselves as we go through life. We gain a sense of whats right and wrong in society and alter ourselves accordingly. Spirituality and the related practices just bring us back to us, who we are without labels and traumas and the influence of others. Who we are when we look in the mirror for a few minutes longer than is normally comfortable. That’s spirituality to me, and there is nothing “light” about that. Its about digging into our psyches and revealing who we’ve covered up with societal niceties and the stresses of living. What is “love and light” about that?

I understand there’s a balance we must strike between optimism and pessimism here, though. I’ve always leaned a little more on the pessimistic side because it just seems more realistic. We come into the world screaming and covered in blood and for the rest of the time everything is good? Nonetheless, a healthy dose of optimism never hurt anybody. I just think the internet loves this side of spirituality though because its easy. It covers everything in glitter and pretends things are good when sometimes they are not. That’s light work to me. The hard work? Really looking at yourself, your fuck ups, what makes you tick, and understanding that every part of you is you, even the dark parts.

I don’t think the “love and light” side of life is completely bullshit. I think you can use the “love and light” side to bring yourself back up, so you don’t wallow in self-pity and hatred for everything. But I think you must first come to the fundamental understanding that life is suffering and pain, and that that’s ok. Not everything needs to be good, and I don’t think that’s pessimism; I think that’s just understanding the universe. We are all birthed from Her, and to come back to ourselves is our life’s work. I think we ought to give ourselves the full human experience and denying our shadow and sugar-coating life is doing ourselves a disservice. So, while you’re in the midst of a painful event, remember that that’s what it is to be human. Savour it.