Pop quiz! When you start feeling sadness, anxiety, or anger coming up, you:
A. start compulsively checking your email
B. stuff down a box of donuts
C. throw yourself into your work
D. do a tequila shot
E. take time to really feel the pain
If you’re like most of the population, you’ll avoid answer E like the plague. Unfortunately, E is the only answer to long-term happiness.
I know this can be hard to believe… We’ve grown up in a society that teaches us to avoid pain at any cost. We’ve been trained to use distractions like food, work, TV, sex, gossip, drugs, social media, shopping, or a constant company to avoid feelings of loneliness, rage, grief, or fear. We get convinced that we could actually avoid life’s pain if we are successful enough, beautiful enough, medicated enough, protected enough, full enough, or loved enough. There is also a part of us that starts believing we can’t survive pain.
The truth, though, is that pain is not only a natural part of being alive, but can be a great teacher if we let it. And the real kicker? It’s actually our compulsion to avoid feeling pain or discomfort that causes the most profound suffering in our lives.
As Carl Jung said: “What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.” If you resist processing the natural pain of life as it pops up, it starts pooling and infecting your entire life in the form of anxiety, dread, depression, overwhelm, or even disease.
You may not like hearing this, but I strongly believe the only way past pain is through pain. And you can begin to revolutionize your relationship with pain by trying these three simple steps with me right now…
1. First, identify where in your body you’re holding emotional pain and notice the sensation of it (aching, tightness, burning, nausea, suffocating, etc.)
2. Start breathing directly into that pain sensation – not analyzing or trying to change it — just letting it wash over you. Doing this will probably feel really hard at first and every fiber of your being will want to run. Just concentrate on breathing into the core of that pain. Know that it’s not going to kill you. In fact, you’ll find that when you face pain directly, it eventually loosens its grip on you.
3. Once you can fully breathe into the sensation, think about softening and releasing the pain with your out-breath.
Practice these three steps whenever any kind of pain, big or small, comes up for you today. It may feel really uncomfortable at first, but by feeling and releasing pain you make room for more of life’s treasures to flow in…
I experienced this recently when I came across a squirrel lying dead on the street. Grief over the death of this little being and the ephemeral quality of life welled up in me and I was tempted to just run by and try to forget about this scene as fast as I could. Instead, I stopped to bury the squirrel and then sat on the curb in silence with that grief for a few minutes. It’s almost like I invited the pain in for tea. By sitting with that sorrow and loss even just for a few moments, I connected to the immense preciousness of life and renewed my commitment to cultivating wakefulness.
So, how about it, Precious Soul… As the poet Kenji Miyazawa said, let’s begin today to “embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.”
P.S. My fall Life Reboot Programs (the last ones of 2015) start in a week! Check out the Toronto Program and the Online/Tele-Program if you’re ready to take your personal and professional life to the next level.
“Place the anger or the fear or the loneliness in a cradle of loving-kindness — being there has the power to purify you.” – Pema Chodron
LIFE REBOOT PROGRAM
This inspiring, practical, and daring personal development program combines DAILY work for 7 weeks (powerful audio recordings, exercises, & online coaching to create shifts on a tangible real-life level) with intimate and exhilarating weekly workshops that will center, heal, and power up both your personal and professional life. Get ready to ignite your next MAGNIFICENT chapter!
TORONTO Life Reboot Program
begins Sept. 29 – runs daily for 7 weeks
8 in-person workshops – TUESDAYS 7-10pm
Life Reboot ONLINE/TELE-Program
begins Sept. 28 – runs daily for 7 weeks
8 phone workshops – MONDAYS 7-8:30pm ET
Life is Hard: A gorgeous, epic song from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros to help embrace the pain…
“Keep your intelligence white-hot and your grief glistening, so your life will stay fresh. Cry easily like a little child.” – Rumi