(An opinion piece - by Sunirmalya) Throughout history the earthly spiritual experience has often been associated with pain. Most of the recognised ‘great’ masters have endured all kinds of hardships and often extremely painful deaths. Jesus was crucified, Gandhi, assassinated by gunfire and, of course, St Francis, spent his life apparently constantly reliving the crucifixion of Jesus and ultimately experiencing the stigmata.

I wonder, however, whether we have made these people famous, or have extolled them more, because of the pain they experienced. Perhaps because it mirrors the daily pain we feel or in some way allows us to feel that our pain is normal or valid and/or nothing compared to that of the great masters.

I wonder whether we have bought into the whole idea of "no pain, no gain" without questioning its wisdom or if it is true.

In some cases, we are left believing pain is necessary for us to experience the perfection of our nature and the ultimate cessation of all pain through our final release to another place called heaven. In all cases we are supposed to believe that by following these masters through a life of pain we will be released into a static, pleasurable state and not ever be bothered again.

I personally find the whole story kind of silly. I don’t believe in another physical location in another time and space, that is free from pain. How could it be? Is there a big wall where we can’t see the suffering souls on the earth? Or a higher plane where we just don’t worry about it? What would be the purpose?

I believe the story is much simpler.

We have made these people our teachers because we believe in the very core of our egos that pain is necessary. We believe that we must endure what life presents to get what we want. That life wasn't meant to be easy. We have listened to their stories and it has expanded our belief that for any good to be achieved there first must be pain, must be hard work, must be struggle and fight and even war.

All this in my view is a mistake.

Suffering is not at all natural, pain is a teacher every time and sometimes it may appear to us not earned, but suffering is our choice.

"Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional" - Buddha

For me, every progress of our soul, every resistance that is to be released, first is presented in the whispers of our inner voice, in the intuitive guidance of our heart.

If this message is not received it will come again in our dreams and if still not acted upon then begin to arrive in the events of our life. All this will be repeated and continue to intensify and become more and more extreme until amplifed into pain. This becomes necessary so that we will ultimately focus everything out and understand what it is we have to do. An illness or accident, in this context, is simply a time to stop everything and listen and decipher a letting go that needs our attention.

It has become necessary because all the other ways the messages were trying to get through were failing. Pain is just the last resort the universe has to get our attention.

The teachers of our past have become teachers because they reflected our desire to understand what we perceived to be a life of suffering, but our evolution will lead us to understand that heaven is not another place, that it is here. That pain often is from heaven, our choice to suffer, from hell.

These teachers pointed to freedom but we focussed on their pain. We believed that when Jesus said that the ‘kingdom of heaven is within’ or Buddha described the whole universe within our hearts they were speaking poetically in metaphors and not literally. Their language was from a special blessed messianic breed nothing like us.

Whilst Jesus was crucified and felt pain, I am convinced rather than suffering, his experience was mystical and transcendent. Whilst St Francis and others felt pain via the stigmata experience, through the pain was ecstatic love and in my view, rather than suffering was a bliss.

We know intuitively that heaven is more a state of mind, a place in consciousness, here and now, not waiting for our physical death, but the death of our attachment to our belief that we must suffer, that life is a struggle, a dog eat dog competition against each other.

In the end we might also come to realise that heaven is nothing more or less than the flow of love, the giving and receiving of love between souls. The higher the heaven, the more unconditional the love and connection with more and more souls.

In this state of consciousness, we might still see what we consider pain, but we will experience it blissfully amidst the magnificent and glorious love that will widen and deepen every experience of ours. We will see the purpose, understand the process, know that pain is simply the end of an era and the starting blocks of a new direction. We might even be happy to be in pain, recognising a moment of great change, that a leap is beginning.

Pain when it is as it should be, is the walking back to get a run up for a big leap. There is no suffering. We suffer when we do not understand pains message. Once we get the message we no longer suffer.

Our challenge is to actually live in heaven here and now. To be blissfully and effortlessly happy here. The earth is perfect because it allows us to be in heaven or hell in any moment and it is all our choice. It is a perfect reflection of our states of mind. Our personal state of mind we are in complete control of, but the collective we are only a contributor. Heaven begins when we take complete and utter responsibility for our contribution to the collective and accept that we are the starting points of the changes we wish to see, beginning with our own example. If every atom of us is in the flow of love, is giving or receiving love without condition to every other soul, we personally are in the highest heaven and we are elevating the collective as powerfully as is possible.

This is the nature of God. It is therefore the natural nature of us. Our process is to let go, to surrender to the infinite love that we actually are, and to stop manufacturing hellish stories of our ego of suffering and drama and soap opera.

They are simply not real, not lasting, and not natural. It is our attachment to suffering that makes the whole planet suffer, our attachment to our own anger, that makes the whole universe angry, it is time for us to be free.

This freedom is ours now, in this moment, as it always has been. “Pain is inevitable”, the Buddha said, “suffering is optional”.

When we see pain from a victim's viewpoint we suffer, want to blame, find an enemy and we are powerless e.g. why is god punishing me, why is life so hard?

When we view pain from love's point of view - we do not suffer, it becomes a creative blessing, we own it, we do not blame and we become the source of the change we wish to see.

Guided Meditation - The expanding nature of us all
Please read this information on preparing for your meditation

In this exercise we will explore our most basic natural selves. The self that is not playing games of the ego or defined by labels or roles, but the real us, the one that is beyond the imprisoning cause and effect world of the past and the future, and dwells free in eternal time.

Imagine yourself for a moment gently walking down a staircase inside your heart to the inmost recesses of you. You are leaving the noises of argument and discussion, the stresses of the world on the surface of your life and with each step of the staircase, you are becoming more focussed, more silent and still.

Down and further down you step and gradually at the end of a long tunnel you see a light.

Stepping further and further down, deeper and deeper, more still and silent the light begins to lighten at the end of the tunnel.

Everything is still and silent and as you go deeper the light brightens more and more.

Until you reach the bottom of the stairs at the still silent centre of your soul, the light is blinding but as you adjust you see a temple.

It is the temple of your own heart.

You open the doors and step inside and you feel the light has become even brighter as a candle shines like a sun in the middle of your temple.

As your eyes adjust some more you feel drawn to the candle.

You feel yourself letting go of layer upon layer of your ego’s identity. It feels so superfluous here. Like a story book of mythologies that are entertaining but ultimately just stories. You let go of your labels and roles. On the surface of your life you were this and that but here you are much more, this candle is much more.

You sit and gaze at the candle. There are no flickers, not a breath of wind, it is still and silent and radiant and immensely powerful.

As you are drawn to it rather than it concentrating your attention it seems as though you are walking into it, expanding through it.

It feels like a window, a viewing place, that connects you, expands you and illumines you all at the same time. It feels eternal, spaceless and infinitely wise without self-importance. On the surface of your life everything learned seemed to differentiate you, an opinion against anothers, here wisdom seems not learned but known. Not hierarchal but flat and common.

The more you travel through the candle the more you feel yourself expanding, you are in timelessness, spacelessness but everything is expanding somehow. As though that is what you are.

The more you relax the more you expand. The more you let go, the more you are.

Feel this in every aspect of you. Let yourself relax more and more.wil