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Excerpted from After the Ecstasy, the Laundry by Jack Kornfield. Copyright © 2000 by Jack Kornfield. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 


"Crisis is an invitation to the spirit."

Jack Kornfield, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, Part 3

The Messengers of Suffering

The most frequent entryway to the sacred is our own suffering and dissatisfaction. Countless spiritual journeys have begun in an encounter with the difficulties of life. For Western masters, suffering in early family life is a common start: alcoholic or abusive parents, grave family illness, loss of a loved relative, or cold absentee parents and warring family members all recur in many of their stories. For one wise and respected meditation master it started with isolation and disconnection.

When I was a child, our family life had so much unhappiness. Everyone was yelling and I felt I didn't belong there. I felt like an alien. Then, about age nine I became really interested in flying saucers. For years at night I would fantasize that a UFO was going to pick me up, that I would be abducted and taken back to another planet. I really wanted that to escape from my alienation and loneliness. I guess that was the beginning of my four decades of spiritual search.

We all know how much the heart longs for spiritual sustenance in times of difficulty. "Honor this longing," says Rumi. "Those that make you return, for whatever reason, to the spirit, be grateful to them. Worry about the others, who give you delicious comfort that keeps you from prayer."

For another spiritual teacher, physician, and healer, thirty years of inner work also began with family sorrows.

My parents fought terribly and then divorced quite violently when I was young. I was sent to an awful boarding school. My family life was so painful, it left me lonely, filled with grief, restlessness, and discontent with everything. I didnít know how to live.

One day I saw a man in orange robes and shaved head chanting "Hare Krishna" on the steps of the square. I naively thought he was some wise Indian saint. He told me about karma, reincanation, meditation, and the possibility of freedom. It rang true in my whole boyd. I was so excited, I phoned my mother and said, "Iím leaving school. I want to be a Hare Krishna monk." She became quite hysterical, so we compromised to where I would learn meditation. That opened me to another world. I learned to let go of my past and to have compassion for myself. Meditation saved my life.

Crisis is an invitation to the spirit not only in childhood, but whenever our life passes through suffering. For many masters, the gateway to the spiritual opened when loss or desperation, suffering, or confusion drove them to look for solace of the heart, for a hidden wholeness.

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