Pain is transformative and can be very clarifying.  There is no experience, no teacher, that can school you like pain can.  Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh,  likes to say “No Mud, No Lotus.” (I like to chant that to myself on particularly enlightening days…)  But it is true, without the mud, a lotus flower can never bloom.   And like the lotus, we need our mud in order to transform ourselves. We need suffering in order to appreciate joy, in order to be grateful for what we have.


A peacock digests poison but grows beautiful feathers and a caterpillar undergoes a complete metamorphosis into butterfly.  But when the caterpillar starts to spin that cocoon, can he know what he is actually getting into?  Metamorphosis cannot be painless, and the process certainly isn’t pretty even if the results can be stunning.  But the getting there.. oh, it is  messy.  A caterpillar literally eats itself alive: it digests itself from the inside out, causing its old body to die. Some of its old tissues are salvaged to form the new vessel. And with digestive juices it continues to eat it’s old body while forming the new one. 
And barring how disgusting and traumatic that sounds… isn’t that what we do?  We look at our old selves and it isn’t so much that we throw away our ugliness as much as we digest it and transform it.  Simply discarding what doesn’t work doesn’t inform us. We have to make use of what pains us.  We need to transform our karma, not just hide from it.  Isn’t that why we spend our lives in therapy – to see ourselves clearly and become better versions of ourselves?
But yes, the process can messy and painful.  If there is something that we can count on, it’s that life is going to kick our butts at one point or another… and sometimes we see it coming and other times we are blindsided.  Regardless of whether we, like the caterpillar, decide to start the process or not, we will be changed. Life will change us: physically, emotionally, materially, spiritually… we will be changed.   The question is whether life will harden us or soften us, whether we will fight this process because it is uncomfortable or will we embrace it.  
Even if we don’t know where we are going or what we are doing, can we be present with the experience?  Can we say yes to our digestive juices eating us alive and trust that we will see more clearly, because only when we have allowed ourselves to be laid bare can we truly attain knowledge and wisdom… Pain is transformative. Pain is clarifying.  And maybe that’s just all we need to know in order to not panic when the next painful cycle comes around…