“Transformation occurs only when we remember, breath by breath, year after year, to move toward our emotional distress without condemning or justifying our experience.”
~ Pema Chödrön
Leaning into pain and suffering. It goes against every natural instinct we possess. When faced with pain we fight, we freeze or we flee. Primal instincts grab the wheel from us and speed off in any direction other than here in an effort to protect us from a perceived danger, from feeling. Fighting distracts us by created chaos. Fear freezes us in time and space. Fleeing allows us to escape, if only temporarily. We may flee through disassociation, alcohol, food, shopping, drugs, sex, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, gambling; the list goes on and on. Oh yeah, and by focusing on, and judging, the lives of others (hello Kardashians). Fighting, freezing and fleeing rob us from being present in the moment, even if that moment feels like more than we can bear.
But what if we are tired of running from ourselves and our lives? What if we are sick and tired of feeling, well, sick and tired? What if we wish to learn how to genuinely step into our lives, to be fully present for it all? And yeah, I mean for it all.
The answer, our eventual comprehension, lies inside the pain. What is our pain trying to teach us? What are we unwilling to see about ourselves or our situation? What are we meant to learn through that experience, to know? I'll never forget the first time a friend told me to "lean into my pain." It was more than 25 years ago. Luckily we were on the phone, or, hand to God, I would have punched her in the face. I am not even kidding a tiny bit. I love her, but what kind of insane BS was that? Who says things like that (and expects to remain upright) when a friend feels like they're going under and really just wants directions to the nearest exit? This was not love, compassion or wisdom. Or was it? Was the answer to lean it and allow myself to feel what I needed to feel so that I might learn what I was meant to learn? Crap. Crap. CRAP.
One of our biggest obstacles? Leaning into our pain without self-judgment, without a manic internal dialogue attempting to rationalize, justify, defend, or make immediate sense of our pain. The only thing worse than being depressed is being depressed about being depressed. The only thing worse than being in pain is judging ourselves for being in pain. It just fuels the pain making it grow exponentially. Judging our pain assures its lingering presence in our lives. We can fight pain, but it's got stamina like you wouldn't believe, and a wicked sense of humor. There is a biological response to fighting physical pain; it makes the pain significantly worse. Emotional pain is no different. Relaxing, finding calm, breath by breath, in the eye of the storm is a tall order to be certain, but fighting it is like wrestling an other worldly creature. Trying to outrun our pain is exhausting, even if we are in amazing shape. It always discovers a way back in, because the universe adores us and is trying to serve the evolution of our soul. The last thing our suffering, anxiety and angst needs is a critical backseat driver commenting on our every thought and action. Our broken hearts and souls never benefit from our very best impersonations of a sarcastic cruel psychotic. They require love, compassion and empathy. They require patience. We judge ourselves continually. Are we doing this right, and if we're not doing it right, can we heal, can we get better? Will we be okay?
But what if we could learn to lean into the pain without self-inflicting jagged wounds? The willingness to resist shying away from our pain, from pushing it away through any means necessary, requires courage. The capacity to lean in with self-love requires a kind of warrior bravery. It requires vulnerability. It requires all of us. When pain is present the answer to the pain is always within the heart of the pain. Always. Pain is a beautiful majestic flag waving throughout our mind, heart and soul. At times it flaps wildly, and other times it ripples gently in the winds of our minds whispering "here, look here. Don't be afraid. I'm merely a messenger of something stunning trying to be born. I'm sent to teach you, to help you understand what lies beneath, because I love you that much. I'm here to set you free"
What does leaning in look like? It looks like someone has just let a little air out of an over inflated balloon. It requires our willingness to allow our feelings to wash over us without a running commentary, but rather to acquire a state of curiosity. Leaning in looks like standing firmly within our pain instead of running as fast, and as far, as we can. It looks like surrender. The pain ebbs and flows if we allow it to. When we find ourselves in the midst of fierce waves in the ocean swimming against them is never in our best interest. If we wish to survive we must cease resisting and allow those waves to carry us safely (if a bit tossed about & dazed) to shore.
“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding... And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy” ~ Kahlil Gibran
In the center of darkness, of pain and suffering we so frequently forget this sacred truth; that the pain itself is as miraculous and necessary to our evolution as is the joy.
What is our pain trying teach us? It's okay to stop running. Lean in. Breathe. Dig deep for that courage that has sustained us long before we became aware of its existence. And then lean in a little further. Breathe. Be bold. We got this, together. The reward is beyond anything we could ever dream of. No lie. Here's to being broken wide open by our pain....
Peace & Love Always,