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THE PAST CAN BE A GOOD PLACE TO LEARN, BUT IT'S A LOUSY PLACE TO LIVE: One of the reasons I share my past growing up and my various struggles on account of it, is to show that we have to make peace with our history so we can move on, often through some type of healing, forgiveness, or various kinds of personal work, often with professional help. In spite of how horrendous our past might be, it doesn't have to define us or have negative power over our lives.

There are two extremes, one is to repress or not deal with our past and stay in reaction to it, and the other is to let it define and limit us by keeping us a tied down victim. We want to identify ourselves as a lovable part of Krishna, not as an incest survivor, child of an alcoholic, or what have you. Some people wear their past trauma like a badge of honor. At the same time, while spiritual advancement is the ultimate solution to all our problems, where we gradually realize and humbly identify ourselves as an effulgent soul beyond material designations or clinical diagnosis, it can be helpful to "name" our type of conditioning since we often identify with it as who we are and suffer accordingly. The way out is through! We aren't our life story, and yet within that story are keys to rise above it. Every negative situation carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater gain.
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This is a further elaboration on one of the basic questions of life: "Who am I?" that I recently spoke of. Just rattling off our spiritual identity, or that "we are not the body," without dealing with our conditioning will fall short of helping us come to the spiritual platform. If we consciously and unconsciously identify with and hold on to past abuse or negative programing, it limits us materially and spiritually. It is a fact that most of the disagreements and quarrels between devotees are due to unexamined life issues that become triggered and make rational discussion impossible. Conflict is always with at least two persons, and if we are to solve them, we have to be willing to take a least 50% responsibility for the impasse or continued interpersonal problem.

When we are in reaction to others by our emotional sensitivities from the past we tend to make offenses and this stalls our spiritual progress--we remain beginners or kanisthas. We can't argue with emotions especially when dressed in spiritual clothes. In my opinion this is why devotees are so poor at having discussions where there are disagreements. If two people think they are absolutely right, where is the middle ground, or even the ability to agree to disagree and stay in friendship? I have shared before that often the negative experiences and programing which helped bring us to Krishna, can be our undoing later on if not properly dealt with. Unfortunately I have seen this played out all to frequently and devotees can remain stuck and not make spiritual progress or be happy people.
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WITHIN SORROW THERE IS GRACE AND OUR SPIRITUAL SOURCE OF STRENGTH CAN BE REVEALED: Many of us experienced this when we first came to Krishna, amidst some type of intense suffering, material disconnect, angst, or existential questions that challenged our life's direction. Thus it shouldn't come as a surprise, though it often does, when in the middle of our spiritual life we again encounter some material loss, suffering, or calamity. Devotees and religious people in general are sometimes under the impression that now they are special and will be protected from difficulties or intense problems or suffering having tasted a new joy and fulfillment in dedication to serve God and others. While there are many places which say that those who have dedicated their lives for spiritual advancement have their suffering reduced, we never the less still have to deal with our physical body and mind, and what the Vedas refer to as current Age of Kali, which is full quarrel, hypocrisy, garbage, and an exploitative mentality. We also read how great devotees suffer in their service and from just living in the world. Do we really want to avoid problems, or are problems the answer to a mediocre, or ho-hum life?

I heard Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, the father of positive thinking, and prolific author, speak about someone who came to him complaining about all his problems and difficulties, which he thought were ruining his peace and distracting him from a Godly life. So Rev Peale, heard him out, and told him he knew a place where the residents had no problems at all, and asked him if he would like to visit them, to which he received an enthusiastic "Of course." They got into Norman's car and drove in silence for 20 minutes and then pulled into a long driveway. Getting out of the car they began to walk, and the Reverend pointed to all the tombstones, and told his amazed friend, "These people have no material problems. Material problems are a sign of life. If I have no problems I pray to God, 'Don't you trust me? Please give me some good problems that I can solve for your glory."

Difficulties, pain, suffering, or a life threatening illness, are times that have the potential to help us deepen our faith and dependence on the Lord and experience spiritual resiliency that give us a source of strength, courage, and healing that we might never take advantage of in normal times. Often we need a good push to keep our spiritual lives vital, and few things get our attention more than difficulties and suffering They remind us about the naked truth of the material world and why we first came to Krishna, but they also can demonstrate that Krishna will help us deal with problems or illness, etc, if we call out in faith and positive expectancy while doing our best to deal with the situation. Krishna's help may not show up in the way we were hoping and praying for, but we have to consider what is most important--and that is our spiritual development, love, and serving nature in bhakti, which we take with us to the next life and beyond. Everything else we leave behind.
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