38 to 35: Crucible

Standing in the fire.

A crucible is a container that can withstand very high temperatures and is used for metal, glass, and pigment production as well as a number of modern laboratory processes. While crucibles historically were usually made from clay, they can be made from any material that withstands temperatures high enough to melt or otherwise alter its contents.

The word catalyst comes up a lot when talking about personal development. This word speaks to how I wish development happened — think the right thought, read the right book, meet the right person, and suddenly, reaction occurs and everything is transformed.

I’ve undergone some radical transformations this year. Externally, I’ve lost weight, dropped addictive behavior, and started waking up with the sun for the first time in my life. On the inside, I’ve opened the door to the richness of my emotional universe, learned more about what I truly value, and admitted where my own behavior was causing me to suffer and betray those values.

But the symbol of change that has been on my mind has not been the catalyst. It has been the crucible.

The Crucible.

Human behavior is stubborn. By the time we reach adulthood, each of us has well worn ruts that we travel in, patterns of behavior which have served to bring us to the point we are. Growth can only happen by forcing ourselves out of these patterns and into new ones. But in most cases, that pattern was serving a purpose. So jumping out of the rut can’t be enough. We need to address the forces that pushed us into that behavior in the first place.

And often, that force is suffering.

This is the paradox of the crucible that I find so important these days. Nobody wants to suffer. So much behavior can ultimately be traced back to avoidance of suffering. There seems to be a spiritual state which rises above avoidance of suffering to build behavior that is based on the pursuit of joy. But in the unexamined human, suffering-avoidance behaviors will grow like weeds and eventually choke out all but the strongest of joys.

And so the importance of the crucible. We must be willing to stand in the fire, or the cold, or whatever our discomfort is, if we want to leave behind the behavior that was protecting us from that suffering. But there are only so many forces compelling enough to drive us into that fire.

I think it is no coincidence that most of my major evolutionary shifts have occurred around breakups. Because love is perhaps the strongest spiritual crucible that exists. There are very few containers in our souls as strong and able to support the suffering required for the hardest growth and change as a relationship deeply rooted in love.

Grateful to everyone in my life that has taught me what it means to love. Grateful especially for those that have suffered with me in love over the years, suffered from my mistakes and ignorance, or beside me in my own suffering. My promise to you: to seek love, to seek joy, and to actively seek the crucibles which can contain the suffering which will allow me to love you and myself more perfectly.