I get discouraged by how much our culture values “easy”. We want easy money, fast food, drive-thru spirituality, and ten easy steps to fix any problem.

We’re living in a culture where MacDonald’s and Wal-Mart thrive because they not only promise to make life easy, they make it cheap. Next to easy, cheap is our second highest good. If you can combine easy AND cheap, you can make a million dollars of that easy money.

I’ve got news for you, though… there is no easy path.

I’ll say that again, just to let it sink in… there is no easy path.

Keep choosing easy and cheap (whether it’s over-processed white bread or overly-simplified spirituality), and you’ll pay for it in the long run. It may not be right away, and the marketers may convince you that easy-street is working for you right now, but you’ll always have to pay. Eventually.

It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to realize how our earth and our cultural diversity are paying for all of the easy choices we’re making. Climate change, plastic islands floating in our oceans, species going extinct – those are pretty hefty payments for our easy lifestyles. And we all know at least one story of a business that had to close (and a little piece of our diversity, creativity, and culture died with it) when Wal-Mart moved into town. When I was in Kenya, I searched everywhere for funky African fabric but found very little – “well-meaning” North Americans had dumped all their cheap cast-off clothing on the market and killed their fabric industry. Cheap and easy always ends up being destructive.

Similar things are going on in the online world. The proliferation of e-books, e-courses, and e-workshops is both overwhelming and a little discouraging. Once again, it’s easy that sells. Give someone “ten easy steps to zen” or “spirituality simplified” or “your best life NOW (without any effort)” and you’ve got a sure winner on your hands. And THEN, throw ten of those e-courses into one bundle, offer it at drastic discounts, and you’ve got pure gold. Just sit back and watch the money flow.

I can’t help but think, when I see those bundles of e-courses, “how can someone actually process all of that information and make it a meaningful experience?” But perhaps, unlike me, people are more interested in deep discounts than meaningful experiences.

Sadly, people selling creative courses on the internet will soon find no market for them, just like the fabric manufacturers in Kenya.

I can’t help but go back to what I said earlier.

There is no easy path.

You can read all of the e-books or blogs you want, memorize hundreds of “10 easy steps” and you are STILL going to have to do the hard work if you really want to grow. Only YOU can do that work.

You can go to all the right retreats, sign up for all the e-courses you can find, and you STILL have to go through the depths of pain when someone you love dies or betrays you. Not even a guru can make that easy for you.

You can try for cheap and easy all you want, put a bandaid on the pain, avoid the conflicts in your relationships, and all you are doing is delaying the agony. Trust me, you’ll have to pay – eventually.

But let’s be honest, hard doesn’t sell.

Even as I prepare to release my e-course on “Letting go of the ground” about surrender, transformation, and growth, I know that it does not have the makings of a best seller. It’s about “hard”, not about “easy”. It’s about working your way through the pain, hanging onto trust when you’re in the middle of the goo, and surrendering to the Divine. None of that is easy. Or cheap.

And yet I know that I have to release it, because it is my truth. And my gift. And I know that it is desperately needed in this easy-seeking culture.

I know pain, I know surrender, and I know transformation. I never thought that those things would serve as my gift to the world (and I’ve resisted that realization, quite frankly), but life is full of surprises.

I have been to hell and back – more than once. I have suffered the loss of a son. I have been raped. Twice I’ve had to live through the attempted suicide of my beloved. In a three month period, my dad died tragically of a horrible farm accident, my uncle died suddenly of a heart attack, and my grandmother died of natural causes.  I have been to more funerals than I can count. (I am not saying those things to suggest my pain has been greater than yours. There is no measure of pain – it just is.)

And yet, despite all of that pain… you want to know something? I am completely in love with life.

Oh sure, when I’m in the mood for a pity party, I can let myself wallow in bitterness with the rest of them, but most of the time, I soak every bit of goodness I can out of life because I know that life is good. And God is good. And people are good. And there is hope.

Yes, my path has led me through a lot of pain, but I can’t imagine living such a rich, full life any other way. Pain has been my greatest teacher. And that’s what I’ve realized as I’ve done all of the interviews in support of “Let go of the Ground“. The people I’ve interviewed are wise people largely for one reason – they have let pain and loss and the gooey-ness of surrender be their teachers. None of them believe in cheap and easy either. They have walked through the surrender and the pain and they have emerged into wisdom and rich beauty. Just like the butterfly.

Here’s one thing I have learned to trust in all of those painful experiences… even in the deepest, darkest pain, God is there.

The God of my understanding doesn’t like cheap and easy. I don’t think we get to have it both ways. Either you take easy street and reject God, or you dive into the messiness and pain of life, and delight in the presence of God in both the pain and the beauty.

Here’s another thing I know… beauty is magnified by darkness. Think of a rose without the shadows between the petals. There would be no depth and beauty if there weren’t dark shadows. Life loses its richness without a mix of both light and dark.

So I’ll stick with this path, release the e-course I feel called to release, and trust that those who have grown as weary as I have with cheap and easy and need something deeper will find their way to it.

Most of us arrive at a sense of self and vocation only after a long journey through alien lands. But this journey bears no resemblance to the trouble-free “travel packages” sold by the tourism industry. It is more akin to the ancient tradition of pilgrimage – “a transformative journey to a sacred centre” full of hardships, darkness, and peril.

  • Parker Palmer, Let your Life Speak

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