“All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.” ~ Spinoza

In the beginning, as in the end, enlightenment attracts precisely because enlightenment eludes.

This is all the more reason to allow the journey to be the thing. But it’s easier said than done. For the journey toward enlightenment can be one hell of a painful rollercoaster ride.

Filled with sinister abysses and soul-crippling crossroads; challenging dark nights of the soul and uncomfortable thresholds. The journey can hurt like hell, especially once you realize that enlightenment can never truly be achieved; and the best you can hope for is to discover an imaginative and open-minded sense of humor.

The secret, beyond having a good sense of humor and allowing the journey to be the thing, is to embrace the pain experienced along the way as one might embrace a teacher or a guide.

A cruel teacher, sure. A harsh guide, no doubt. But that’s what it takes to improve oneself, to individuate, to self-actualize, to self-overcome. That’s what it takes to become enlightened.

Most people would probably rather bypass the blaze and go straight to being golden. They’d rather skip the rub and simply become a pearl, or forgo the pressure and somehow become a diamond, or waive off the sharpening and go straight to being sharp.

But the path toward enlightenment isn’t having any of that “easy road” nonsense. It’s not the path toward enlightenment because it’s easy. It’s the path to enlightenment because it’s difficult. If you’re on it, then you already know that this is the case.


If you have yet to begin walking it, then you’re in for one hell of a rude awakening; for the forge, the rub, the pressure, and the sharpening will test your mettle like nothing else ever has.

Let’s take a look at how we can deal with the elusiveness of enlightenment ~

Surrender to the forge

“Heroes are meant to be forged golden from the blaze.” ~ Nikita Gill

The crucible of life is going to test you anyway. You might as well learn from it. Let it burn you. Then rise from the ashes with a Phoenix heart.

The critical difference between being on the path and not being on the path is this: those who are on the path are hyper-aware of the crucible and what it has to teach.

When you are on the path, you are a comfort-zone-stretcher par excellence. You brazenly take leaps of courage. You are not afraid of “jumping into the fire.” Because you are fire. You are the blaze.

Your surrender, albeit painful, is a surrender into yourself. Fire plus fire equals greater fire. Pain is mere kindling. Nothing burns brighter than pain, and you have the courage and the wherewithal to own it.

Embrace the rub

“The pearl is also always grit, an irritation as well as a luster.” ~ James Hillman

Nothing takes more grit than putting one foot in front of the other on the path toward enlightenment, especially considering the fact that enlightenment will always be elusive.

As grit, your grit will come in handy when it comes to withstanding the rub. The rub is the Great Mystery’s way of polishing you into a pearl.

The cosmos is your oyster, massaging you into greatness with each irritating, painful, uncomfortable rub. Nothing is more difficult, yet nothing is more enlightening.

With enough cosmic rubbing you begin to realize that you are not just a speck in the universe, you are the entire universe in a speck. And suddenly your hard-earned luster has all been worth it.

As Rumi famously stated, “If you’re irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?”

Encourage the pressure

“The obstacle is the path.” ~ Zen proverb

Without pressure, how will you know your capacities? Without a challenge, how will you know what you are capable of accomplishing? Pressure keeps you circumspect through the vicissitudes of life. It keeps your body healthy, your mind sharp, and your soul calibrated.

There are ways to smooth out the clumsy kinks, the ignorant delusions, and holier than thou mindsets that creep up along the path. And they all require pressure.

As with all diamonds, pressure is needed to polish them. Not comfort, not security, not safety, but pressure. So it goes also for the rough diamond of the soul. Pressure is needed to smooth out the edges. To make it more robust, more antifragile.

Indeed. It’s pressure that transforms the coal-black demon, buried inside you, into a diamond-backed ally, rallying beside you. Even the Shadow (probably especially the Shadow) is not immune to Pressure’s enlightening nudge.

Submit to the sharpening

“If on your journey, you should encounter God, God will be cut.” ~ Hatori Hanzo, Kill Bill

There is more wisdom in an inch of hard-earned scar than in a mile of easily-gained knowledge.

As long as the wound doesn’t kill you, there is the potential for great wisdom hidden within. There is pain there, sure, but it’s the kind of pain that sculpts a heart into wholeheartedness. That carves a mind into open-mindedness. That sharpens a soul into a thing sharp enough to cut God.

Your sacred wounds are the deep scars you earned from being raked over the coals of life. They keep you awake and aware to the process of becoming who you authentically are.

They keep you courageous in your vulnerability and vigilant in not allowing inauthentic invulnerability to dull your hard-earned shine. In short: they keep you antifragile and meta-flexible to the difficulty of the journey.

Submitting to the sharpening is being okay with the fact that you will receive many sacred wounds along the path toward enlightenment.

It’s surrendering to the Philosopher’s Stone and the alchemical process of transforming the dull, leaden, heavy, codependent, unenlightened you of yesterday into the sharp, golden, lighthearted, interdependent, enlightened you of tomorrow.

Image source:

Art by Cameron Gray
Artwork-1 by Hannah Faith Yata
Artwork-2 by Hannah Faith Yata

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