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Autumn 1998

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Pleasure, Pain and Transformation

"The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice "
George Eliot

"Masochism is loving the pleasure in pain. It is the clue to why we 'rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of' (Shakespeare, Hamlet). We like to think that masochism is limited to perverted personalities, but most of us have at least one room in the mansion of our personality devoted to self-torture. Consider the mental anguish involved in small worries, anxieties, continual self-doubts; in the slow suicide of chronic anger or depression; in addiction to work, the more righteous sacrifice made on the altar of the 'bitch-goddess, Success' (William James). Perhaps the majority of human suffering is self imposed." Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox's description, in Your Mythic Journey, clearly describes an emotion we are not encouraged to grapple with.

Many of us are not aware of this tendency, which becomes a primary obstacle in our quest for deeper knowledge of ourselves. Recognizing our control over masochistic impulses is a necessary first step on the road to transformation. The authors are careful to acknowledge how difficult this can be. "It takes courage to admit that we have created much of our suffering and to take steps to dismiss it. Strength and tenderness are needed for us to tolerate happiness. The pleasure we get from suffering is one of our most carefully guarded secrets. We like to deny the payoffs of pain. Like Prometheus, we blame the gods and ignore our complicity in creating our fate."

How, then, do we move from seeking pain to experiencing pleasure and achieving our goals? By acknowledging our need for power. It is only when we quit giving our power away that we realize the choice was always ours. Josie RavenWing, in The Return of Spirit, discussed the necessity of honoring ourselves and our power to transform ourselves. "The more power we gather, the more our energy can expand toward transcendental vistas. From the ancient scriptures to modern times, stories abound of such efforts and their various 'out-of-body' results. They offer a legacy and a lure of what is within the realm of spiritual possibilities.

"Gathering power on a consistent basis is responsible spiritual action. Doing so increases our choice, our strength and our vitality, and is good for our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. It reduces the potential of being victimized by a variety for forces. Finally, gathering power can be part of the great spiritual journey of transcending our normal routines and identities, of exploring the interconnecting webs of abundant universal energies."

Part of our power is derived from intuition. A carefully constructed society frowns upon intuition, a ban rooted in fear of the unknown. Repressive societies need rites and rituals to enforce the social order. In such a culture, whether it be national or family, following your intuition seems more like rebellion than an effort to bring order to the chaos inflicted by traditional beliefs. When freed from customary taboos, our lives flow freer, truer to our own destiny, without harm to others. Although this path is frightening to some, it may be the only path which proves fruitful.

"Intuition can make your life smoother and more fun, but it may also be the crucial skill for the future. Everywhere I travel, I speak with people whose physical and emotional lives are in turmoil, who can no longer rely on jobs, relationships, or possessions to provide meaning, who sense something intense occurring under the surface. The 'normal' beliefs and forms people have identified with are shifting like sands in the Sahara."wrote Penney Pierce in The Intuitive Way. "Our own intuition is the catalyst for self-improvement and self-realization, because when it comes to making deep and lasting changes in one's personal life, only subjective experience, not fact, registers as real. And yet, when I listen to my inner authority and receive its insights openly and quietly, and when I share my views in the same spirit, I usually find that I'm not unique. Other people have been sensing, thinking, or dreaming similar things. Intuition becomes especially strong when we share it with each other--we find then that the synthesis of our shrewd intuitive knowing validates truth more powerfully than does reading books by erudite scholars."

While recognizing power and intuition as our own, we also recognize it as a force from without, where our common needs dwell. As we move into the new millennium, what better goal than to free ourselves from masochism and experience this common wisdom? The process is, in itself, illuminating. The reward for this growth is incomparable. This should be our gift to ourselves on our spiritual quest.

Loretta Kemsley


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