Updated: Jan 19, 2021
In this post I am offering some insight into the purpose of suffering and what is possible through surrender.
By the time I had reached my early thirties it felt as if my life had failed on so many levels. At the time I was reaching a point of frustration that words could not describe. After all, I had already endured several years of generalized anxiety and depression. In 1996, I lost my older brother to cancer. In 2002, I married my high school sweetheart only to watch that relationship crumble fifteen months later. In 2004 I was given a diagnosis of cancer which involved having surgery and weeks of radiation treatment. To top things off, in the fall of 2005 I began experiencing night terrors. Why was all of this happening to me? What had I done that I deserved to experience such turmoil and personal tragedy? But wait; what if there was a purpose to all of this suffering? What if there were gifts yet to be discovered because of all of these experiences, events and circumstances? And what if all of this suffering was actually preparing me for something, a shift in consciousness, an uncommon reality-one of inner quiet and peace without all the turmoil?
I remember walking into a crowded room for my first introductory session at college like it was yesterday. I strolled into the 35 person filled room only to be suddenly hit with a heavy feeling of fear and dread. There was a lot of nervous energy and talking going on. The heat I felt in there was so intense it was like walking into a sauna. I never experienced this before; at least not this degree. I sat there feeling stunned and ambushed and totally clueless as to how to deal with these unexpected negative forces. My face broke out into a sweat and I couldn’t turn it off! All I wanted to do at this point was escape and find relief. “What the hell’s going on?” is what I said to myself. Little did I know that this was the beginning of my own intense fourteen year journey of personal suffering.
I left school that day feeling quite confused about what had happened. I was stunned at the viciousness of the energy. I didn’t sleep well that night. I tossed and turned still feeling the residual energy. Looking back, I now realize that I had activated a kind of dormant pain-energy within myself. I was left feeling drained and restless for the remaining semesters. Despite this personal suffering I pushed forward and eventually graduated and became registered in my respective field.
THE UNTHINKABLE HAPPENS
I always saw my older brother Steve as my hero, strong and fearless. Our younger years were spent watching Bruce Lee movies and training in our respective styles of karate. Karate was a big part of our lives growing up. It was the perfect outlet for releasing built up energy.
One day, Just a few months after my graduation I received a phone call from my older sister. My brother had been at the gym weightlifting and he suddenly found it hard to breathe. Chest x-rays revealed a tumor in his chest. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! My brother was always in great shape and worked out religiously. He was only thirty two years old for goodness sakes! You hear about things like this but you never imagine it could happen to someone in your own family, and definitely not your brother.
I was at a loss for words. I hung up the phone and quickly paid a visit to him at his home. I was still speechless. What do you say? All I knew to do was pray. I prayed for a miracle. I prayed that he be healed. Deep down I was hoping that it was caught early and that he could beat it. Over the next two months he underwent several treatments which included chemotherapy. Despite all the treatments he received, my brother, after a courageous battle passed away a year later. The devastation I felt was palpable.
THE UNCONSCIOUS RELATIONSHIP
The time away I spent studying in the U.S. left quite a strain on both my girlfriend and I. During that time the spats were mostly over jealousy. The incredible thing is that neither one of us was ever disloyal. However, I always sensed that there were unresolved issues between us and I would be proven correct whenever we argued. You see, there is no true forgiveness in the unconscious relationship. If there were, the past would not be continuously relived.
Regardless of our perceived problems we remained committed to each other. I look back and see several moments that were wasted over petty arguments. Those arguments frequently translated into weeks of silence between us, mostly from my end. At that time forgiveness was foreign to me, I had not yet understood how to apply it. Despite all of our issues we eventually got engaged, built a house and in 2002, got married. By the time we were married most of our communication had broken down. We forgot how to speak kindly to each other. And within the first few months of our marriage we began treating the other like strangers. How did we let this happen? Clarity seems to offer an answer; you see, relationships can be the greatest opportunity to demonstrate who you truly are or they can be sources of unconscious pain.
Without the correct tools, it usually is the latter. Finally by the fall of 2003 after an argument, she said to me, “I don’t love you”. I was devastated only because regardless of what we had been through, I could never have imagined ever saying those words. A few weeks later I called for an emergency family meeting and told her I was leaving her. The marriage was over in a short span of 15 months.
THE FIRE GETS HOTTER
Months had passed since my marriage had fallen apart and I was trying to move on with my life as I knew how. It was now the winter of 2004. I was working full-time as both a clinician and dental hygiene educator. One morning I was getting dressed for work and my belt brushed against the right side of my scrotum and I experienced a feeling I had never felt before. I felt pain and discomfort. I was quite alarmed to say the least. I visited my doctor who then sent me to a specialist. Upon examination the specialist immediately said, ‘it’s cancer”. I was sent for an ultrasound immediately for confirmation and surgery was quickly set up.
Radiation treatment was coming up following surgery and I refused to take the four weeks off for it. As I lay on the table for each radiation session I can remember praying the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” as the treatments started. I would pray at every session, hoping for a miracle, for salvation of some kind. The Universe had gotten my attention by now…but what was being asked of me?
THE FINAL CATALYST: NIGHT TERRORS
In early September of 2005 I moved from a detached house into a more affordable townhouse. I decided to move to save some money, after all I had recently purchased a corvette with a 6-speed transmission and gas was costly, especially when you reach the speed limit at a rapid pace. Let`s just say that highway on-ramps were one of my favorite things. Weeks passed and one night I got into bed and dosed off to sleep. A few hours went by when I was suddenly awakened to a feeling that I was not alone in my bedroom. As I opened my eyes, I could sense a dark presence in the room. I looked down towards my feet only to see the sheets being pulled off me. I was paralyzed with fear. I closed my eyes and prayed that whatever it was would be soon gone. I fell back asleep and woke up the next morning feeling an incredible dread, and ready for change.
Suffering Serves a Purpose
By this point in time I wanted answers-I demanded them! It was now the fall of 2005. I was at work and had a forty-five minute break in between patients. I jumped into my Volvo and sat there parked on a side street, reflecting on a book I had read. Suddenly without warning, I heard an audible voice, “Challenge your thoughts!” and began to feel an intense vibration in my forehead. My thinking mind immediately was silenced. I was now experiencing clarity and events, circumstances, the past now made sense. I had made a shift-a shift in awareness and consciousness. I shortly thereafter began to experience automatic writing. By the end of December I was holding my first talk on personal transformation. I had found what I was desperately searching for and discovered that suffering did serve a purpose-it was a gift that led me to inner peace.