The Truth Behind ‘No Pain, No Gain’: The Gritty Messy Road to Freedom

I posted a video below of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. I think this is very much like our transition from spiritual infancy into maturity. The caterpillar breaks itself down, sheds her old self and goes through a difficult, laboring and challenging process to become a butterfly.

I see a lot of humans who think they can become “enlightened” or “healed” by thinking or talking their way there or faking love, feigning positivity,  forgiveness, niceness and gratefulness prematurely or when it’s not real. These divine virtues are of course necessary but they only serve us when they are genuinely expressed. These virtues are a natural byproduct of having done the emotional work to heal. If spiritual transformation were as simple as pressing a “think positive” button or  repeating positive affirmations that some guru said to repeat, we’d all be self-actualized already. If it was as easy as distracting ourselves from painful memories, flashbacks and emotions, life in the physical body would be pointless since there is no real reward or growth that can come from living an easy life. But unfortunately, we cannot think our way, meditate our way, talk to ourselves or ride on the coattails of a spiritual teacher to get there. We have to get there by doing the grueling nose-to-the-grindstone inner work.

Disidentifying with the ego is hard work, blood, sweat and tears kinda work. It requires us to do the unimaginable and face the very real parts of life and the very real parts of our shadow we’ve been running from for lifetimes. We cannot realize our Light without having first faced our Darkness.

The caterpillar to butterfly is a perfect analogy since there’s not only hard work involved in the transition but also when it’s all over, the person is completely free and completely sovereign.

It is normal to want to avoid pain and we all do our darndest to. At least I know, I am a pro at it. Avoiding discomfort is what unites us all as humble human beings. We all want to become fully awakened to who we really are without doing the hard work to get there. Who wouldn’t? Who wouldn’t dream of it or go out of their way to try to take ‘short cuts’. It’s human nature to just want the diploma without going to college.

The transition from caterpillar to butterfly might be challenging and unpleasant, but it’s not impossible. And when we are ready to start the journey, we will know it. It will be obvious. We will begin shedding those parts of ourselves that were not real so that we can clearly see what is real and we’ll all do it as naturally and as courageously as the caterpillar.

Don’t believe those who tell you it’s easy breezy…. because they are lying or at best misinformed by Facebook memes, Little Buddha quotes or some celebrity ‘spiritual leader’. Be inspired by the caterpillar and know all this discomfort in unraveling yourself is not in vain. Imagine the freedom in knowing your true self and keep your eye on the prize.

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