A Meditation on What Haunts Us

I recently had the good fortune to visit New Orleans, which is a feast for the senses. But it was a message in a book from an old shop in the French Quarter that has stayed with me most. The book was on ghosts and the afterlife, written by a journalist looking for answers. The message was channeled by a medium.

According to that medium, the spirits want us to know that suffering is needed for spiritual growth.

When I read that sentence, my whole attention narrowed to a focus, and something inside me sighed and said yes. If that was true, I could accept the pain of the past, the struggles of today. I could breathe. And ever since, the idea has kept resonating.

Now, I make no arguments for or against the afterlife…or ghosts, or mediums. And I’m aware that the message itself is controversial. Really, Virginia, all suffering is needed? I know, it’s a hornet’s nest. But that doesn’t stop me considering the possibility.

The potential of hardship to lead to growth is mirrored everywhere in life.

Without the irritants of sand, an oyster would never create a pearl. Without problems and challenges, most of us would have little impetus to grow. I think of my own struggles to build a healthy business and know each great leap came specifically because some very real hardship or problem was nipping at my heels.

So when it comes to something beyond blood and bone, something greater than ourselves, something luminous—and most of us have sensed this at some point—is it such a stretch to consider that the same natural process might spur us on to spiritual growth?

I can only speak for myself. Whenever I consider the possibility that my suffering polishes me like a diamond, my chest opens and my breathing becomes soft.

And I think of all the clients I have seen over the years, many of whom have been through immense suffering and trauma, some even believing themselves broken. But the resilience and creativity they’ve shown, the skills learned, depths mined, and wholeness which is so much greater than the wounds it contains, say otherwise. They are some of the most amazing people you could hope to meet.

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