One of the first things I was taught during my ministerial training is that our work as spiritual teachers is to comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable. I've thought a lot about that over the past few years.
I have come to believe that when we come into the awareness of Truth, there are two predictable consequences. First, we will find ourselves "afflicted" - shaken from our ruts and safety zones, and second, we will find peace and comfort as we continue to work with the Truth we learn. In all likelihood it won't be a simple, fast-n-easy 1-2-3 process. It will, by turns, be messy, scary, annoying, comforting, reassuring, and everything else that makes up the spectrum of human emotion and experience.
Many (most?) of us set out on our journey into the exploration of Truth because something in our life isn't working. We may be in financial crisis, embroiled in conflict with others, or physically experiencing sickness and fatigue. Perhaps emotionally we are simply sick and tired of the pattern of our life. Nearly everyone finds some amazing nugget of Truth at the start of their exploration which "proves" to them that this is a worthwhile path, and it would be good to stay the course. We get a new job! The conflict with our friend is resolved! The physical challenge is healed, or at least much improved! We are excited and enthused because we have caught a glimpse of the Good which Life is. Our minds and hearts are put at ease. We have been comforted by Truth.
Then... it turns out the new boss is just as unreasonable as the old boss. While the
relationship with our friend is better, Mom and Dad or son or daughter are even more intent on making us miserable. And besides that, there's this pain in the hip that we don't remember being there before... As this new crop of complaints begins to surface, there is also the awareness that it wasn't too long ago that we glimpsed the Good that Life is, and now it just seems that all we are seeing is stuff that doesn't seem Good at all.
We began in affliction and Truth brought a certain amount of comfort. As we settle into that comfort, a couple of things tend to happen. One is that we begin to think we're "done" and get lazy in our spiritual practices. The other is that as we learn more, we begin to see more and more clearly where our lives are out of alignment with Truth. And here we are, once again afflicted and very UNcomfortable!
As we move forward, we will again be comforted. And afflicted. And comforted... you get the idea. The whole message of Truth is that there is a Source of peace which is not dependent upon outer circumstances. As long as we are looking to the good/bad, happy/sad, easy/hard experiences of our human lives for comfort, we will experience this never-ending cycle of ups and downs. It's just the way human life is.
When we learn to look instead towards that Source of peace within us which is unchanged, unchanging, and unchangeable, we learn to stop looking at ourselves as either "victims" or "victors". We are no longer at the mercy of external circumstances for our comfort and we do not have to continually battle to "conquer" those same circumstances. Through practice, prayer, patience and perseverance, we come to know the peace within. We begin to remember - sooner rather than later - that all of those things in the outer world are simply the way things are in the outer world. Good/bad, comfortable/not-comfortable; those are the temporary facts of human life and they will change. The peace of knowing Truth is constant. It is in the inner space of Stillness and Silence that we find this firm foundation of understanding. To the extent that we are able to remember that we have within us the Christ, we are truly comforted.
Our Elder Brother Jesus taught this in Matthew 6:31- 34:
"... do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' ... your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God ... and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow..."
The Love, the Life, the Wholeness which we might call God, is always present. It's your choice whether look within and claim it
(this is an updated version of a blog post from 2013.)