Just yesterday one of my students rectification asked me one of the classical questions of spirituality. In this article I would like to share our dialogue about that question with you. The question usually goes something like this:
If we do not judge or condemn and instead accept life as it is, how then do we progress?
Me: You just used the word progress. Could you tell me what progress means to you?
Her: Progress to me means feeling happier.
Me: What I understand from what you say is that it is your opinion that it is good to feel happy and that it is bad to feel unhappy. That is not my opinion.
Her: Because life is a process and not a finished product?
Me: That is indeed a statement I have made, but I would like to make the meaning of this statement more clear to you.
Me: When we believe that feeling negative feelings is bad, we do not understand that life is actually communicating with us through our feelings.
If I would compare feelings to a traffic light, your statement would be equal to saying that it is good when the traffic light is green and bad when it is red. If it would really be the case that a green traffic light is good, it would be best if all traffic lights are green at all times. But I think it is easy to imagine that that situation would lead to chaos.
The truth is that neither the green nor the red light are good or bad. They are just signals used to communicate with us. When the traffic light is green it indicates to us that it is safe for us to continue our journey. When it is red it indicates to us that it is unsafe for us to continue. On the other hand, if we ignore the signals we are likely to create unpleasant situations for ourselves. Neither braking at a green light nor passing through a red light is safe.
It is much like this with our feelings. Positive feelings are an indication that we are ‘on the right path’, negative feelings indicate that we are not. Therefore negative feelings are not bad, they are our guides that help us to become aware of a situation, both within and without, that requires change.
The point is to accept everything, but that does not mean you should not change anything.
One thing that I would like to clarify further is the difference between pain and suffering. According to me pain is pain, while suffering is pain upon pain. If you ask me, pain is unavoidable but suffering is only due to our misunderstanding of a situation.
Pain upon pain means experiencing more negative feelings because we are experiencing negative feelings. If you would like a concrete example of this, I have talked about how I created pain upon pain for myself in one of my previous articles: Two wings to fly.