Gifts of Suffering
by Cassendre Xavier
Nationally recognized personal growth coach, spiritual teacher, and New York Times bestselling author Iyanla Vanzant was once a regular feature of the television show “Starting Over”. I remember once watching when she was talking to a Starting Over household and cast member about how to deal with her past. The woman had been abused in her youth and seemed to have a difficult time embracing a more positive present and creating a better future for herself.
Iyanla coached her to talk about her abuse a little bit. Then, she looked deeply into the woman’s eyes, held her hands, and with great compassion said, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry those terrible things happened to you. Is that what you want to hear?” The woman’s face quickly went from contorted in sadness and wet tears to straight, plain, and incredulous. She was listening, and maybe a little startled and embarrassed. “You have been waiting all this time for someone to tell you they’re sorry. You want people to acknowledge your pain. I’m doing that now. I’m sorry that happened to you. It’s terrible. But you must let it go and never speak of it again. Never speak of it again.” Well, that threw me for a loop, so I can imagine the woman hearing it was also surprised at this new information.
I started then taking Iyanla’s advice. I, too, started trying to forget about my painful abusive past, and not thinking about it. Months and years later I even got into story making as a craft, and creating and recreating the kind of parents and childhood I would’ve liked to have had to become the person I wanted to be. It was very helpful, because in the doing, in the “making believe”, I also realized I actually did have some very good and pleasant things in my childhood and in my parents. I didn’t have to make it all up.
This work is very good to do – to let go of a painful past, and to stop reliving the stories and sadness we sometimes keep bringing up.
But there is something to being truthful about our present sorrows, too.
If in being so focused on “magical living” and creating a reality based on our desired fantasies and affirmations we forget to sometimes talk about our struggles, we miss out on some important and even helpful experiences.
This happened to me recently when I started having a hard time at a job that had been for some months paying me quite well and meeting several of my basic needs.
I had been enjoying this work, which was a temporary job, and not working hard enough on creating more permanent, and appropriate work. I had also been spending most of my time speaking positively of my financial situation, even though things were usually much more dire than I spoke of, because of the spiritual work and studies I’d done that focused on positive affirmations and speaking “as if”. The books I’d been reading had said to speak of my life as I wanted it to be, and so I did, without lying, just being creative in my speaking. While this did work and I saw their benefits in my well-paying temporary job, I was also missing out on an opportunity to make progress in my permanent business and receive more donations and sales from my audience of fans and customers who often were reminded that my success was largely reliant on their support.
Because of circumstances that arose a few months into my temporary job bliss, I began experiencing difficulties, resistance, and other challenges in my work. Because of the way people around me were responding to how my work was being received by the majority of my customers, my work was beginning to be sabotaged. Now, going to work was no longer pleasant, and because of the sabotage, I was making a third of the income and a third of new customer growth.
The suffering I began experiencing at work was becoming too much for me to be able to creatively and positively speak about. I decided to drop all pretence and just admit to myself and to my audience that I was suffering. As soon as that decision was made, I had some experiences, which turned into lessons I would like to share in hopes that they may help you. Here’s what can happen when you can fully accept, experience, and share your suffering with others:
1) Physically, you may relax. Your shoulders may drop, and you may be able to feel all of your feelings about the circumstance you are in. You may realize then, that you were holding a lot of tension pretending everything was great, or even just okay.
2) You get to really look around and see that you deserve more. You may see that you were selling yourself short by settling for less than you deserve.
3) You can take the opportunity to express gratitude to everyone and everything, including those who were attempting to hurt you. In doing so, you may see things you didn’t see before and learn about yourself and your so-called enemies. Everything and everyone, even if they are hurting you, is a gift if you see at that way and make it one in your life.
4) You may see direct parallels in your present situation and past relationships that link to a possible past painful or traumatic experience. You may have the opportunity to examine what beliefs where created in your past and how you may have been replaying a traumatic experience by not demanding more for yourself. You may discover that you need to, and could heal your past pain by loving yourself more and by giving yourself new beliefs to replace the old.
5) In feeling the pain of your experience, you may use those moments seeking spiritual guidance to direct your next steps. Often, it is in our most challenging moments that the best questions and answers to our deepest life issues arise.
If we face our difficulties with grace, gratitude, and a willingness to honor all of our feelings, if we can combine occasional expressions of pain and sadness with our usual routine of focusing on the positive and speaking our most desired realities into being, we can live a more balanced, whole life, and manifest our dreams and best life ever.
Cassendre Xavier is an award-winning multi-media Haitian and Chinese-American artist. Her latest print and e-books are This is What a Millionaire Looks Like: Inspiring Essays (ARtivist Publications, 2011) Expanding Your Capacity for Joy: A Raw Vegan Comfort Book, Sourcebook & Journal (ARtivist Publications, 2009) her latest CD/download of music (described by Borders Music’s Steven M. Wilson as “a cross between Tracy Chapman, Sade and Enya”) is Capable of Love (Serious Creature Music, 2009), and her latest guided meditation recordings Affirmations for Survivors: Self-Love, and Affirmations for Survivors: Spirituality (Amethyste Affirmations, 2007) feature the music of Thaddeus (Sanaya Roman www.orindaben.com). Visit www.cassEndrExavier.com for more information about Cassendre.
Copyright (c) 2011 by Cassendre Xavier. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint granted as long as "Gifts of Suffering by Cassendre Xavier" appears with the aforementioned copyright date, credit and website www.cassEndrExavier.com are included. Thank you for sharing responsibly!