Our modern human instinct is to run in the opposite direction of pain, and when it does show up our reaction is usually to want it gone as fast as possible.
To be clear, I’m not conflating the “pain” of working out or holding down a job you hate with the pain I’m talking about: the pain of disconnection, grief, loneliness, sorrow, heartbreak, loss, anguish; the physical pain of injury, illness, disease; the pain of doing hard things in relationships like confronting someone we love, asking for our needs to be met, setting healthy boundaries and taking full responsibility for our own choices, mess-ups and how we impact others.
I don’t know about you, but no one taught me how to be with these types of pain, let alone how to enter into right relationship with them to the degree they no longer scare me. I had to learn this for myself, and the spiritual capacities I’ve cultivated (as a result of what felt to me like instinctive death leaps into the unknown) continue to serve me. These spiritual capacities are what allow me to even be here on the internet, doing what I do.
By facing my pain – emotional, physical and psycho-spiritual – I’ve discovered a deep well of courage I didn’t know I had when I was younger; I discovered my life’s purpose, and a faith big enough sometimes I think it contains the whole cosmos. That faith is a faith in nature, in life itself, in my body, in my own intuitions and instincts and in whatever “life curriculum” is currently happening in my life, and out there in the world.
I don’t know what gifts await you, but I do know they’re there…waiting for you to say “yes” to this grand adventure of discovery.
This isn’t for the faint of heart; though I can tell you it’s 1000% worth the price of admission.
Whatever pain you’re facing RIGHT NOW…whatever has your attention the most: that’s what you turn towards.
Is it a physical injury/pain?
Is it mental/emotional pain?
Is it psycho-spiritual?
Name whatever it is, and then describe the meaning or story you’re currently assigning this pain. Don’t be enlightened here, describe this in your most vulnerable authenticity. Usually our stories about pain are dire: we’re afraid it means we won’t get to do what we love anymore, or as we age; we’re afraid we’re unlovable, or we won’t feel fulfilled in our careers and we might die before we ever found our purpose…
Your story (or meaning) about this current pain indicates what awaits you on the other side of walking straight into it. For example: maybe your pain is physical, and you’re afraid you won’t be able to do your favorite activities anymore. Maybe this fear even has you wondering if you’ll be in pain for the rest of your life, doomed to years of misery.
What you might discover, if you allow this pain to be your teacher and guide you towards new wisdom, is that you’re far more resilient then you ever imagined.
You might learn so much about pain during this journey that pain stops scaring you at all, and you know deep down you’ll live the rest of your life feeling capable of your favorite activities. But more than that, you’ve learned how it feels to inhabit your body – and life – with courage, curiosity and confidence that you can figure anything out, including pain. You start sharing what you’ve discovered with your friends and family, and pretty soon you’re influencing those around you to inhabit their bodies – and lives – with newfound confidence and trust in their bodies!
This is entirely possible for every single one of you readers. This faux scenario perfectly describes my journey. At age 24 I was certain I’d be doomed to workout in a gym the rest of my life, never to climb another mountain (now, at age 39, this is laughable to me!)
Will you share in the comments below which category of pain has your attention right now?
Then, you’re going to make the commitment to turn towards that pain. That means two things primarily:
- Welcome the pain. Get curious about it. Learn to be with it, without wishing it away. Try to listen to your body/mind/soul and open yourself to the message that wants to come through. This is a lifelong practice btw – not a one and one! When you embrace this path, it means that whatever pain comes your way, you won’t seek to eliminate it until you’ve received the message.
- Educate yourself about whatever category your pain is in:
Learning about your body, what it’s made of, how it functions, why and how pain happens…
Or learning about the human psyche and our emotional landscape; diving into trauma theory, family dynamics or whatever else has your attention.
Or, maybe you’re pursuing spiritual learning. I used the term ‘psycho-spiritual’ above because I believe sometimes these are related, and we feel a kind of inner angst when we don’t have a purpose, when we feel adrift or disconnected from a higher sense of self or world. I like to think of this category as the communication pathway between your “I” consciousness (awakened self) and god/universal intelligence/spirit (however you think of the greater wisdom out there in the natural world).
Please share your thoughts below, I can’t wait to hear from you on this one!