In the late 1980’s a group of devotees was having an informal conversation with a great spiritual teacher. A swami asked the teacher about going into the countryside of India and teaching the people about God and meditation. The teacher gave the swami a deep look and then with great compassion told him, “When your belly is empty you are not interested in God. Feed them”.
In your life, when you are suffering, you are not particularly interested in esoteric spiritual philosophies or practices. When you are in the middle of suffering the idea of the transcendental reality feels a million miles away and is not particularly helpful nor welcome. If you can’t breathe all you want is air. If you are hungry all you want is food. If you are suffering all you want is relief. It’s Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. You have to satisfy the physiological and safety needs before you can be interested in belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization. When you are suffering what matters is ending the suffering and that happens through resolution.
Resolution begins with experience and understanding – You have an experience of suffering and then you find the understanding of why are you suffering and how you resolve that. Resolution is a prerequisite for self-actualization.
Understanding involves mental and emotional maturity. Imagine you are four years old and you take your first two wheel bike ride. You fall and skin your knee. You cry, say the sidewalk did this to you and you run into the house for sympathy and love. When you are four you feel vulnerable and not always safe so there is fear. You can’t take care of yourself so you rely upon everyone else for survival and safety. If that is shaken there is mistrust. Your ego is very immature and you are somewhat fearful of the world out there. As you mature, the idea of survival and safety should become easier to navigate but you have never been trained to understand pain, fear and suffering. If you can’t understand them how can you respond with maturity and resolve them?