Become mindful of it and acknowledge its presence,
but don’t let it own you, define you, consume and devour you.
Find comfort in the discomfort, they say, lean into the pain.
Embrace it and even befriend it.
Your suffering is an invitation to your growth.
So uncover the learning—the valuable lessons,
the deeper truth—the wisdom.
Seek out the silver lining.
And remember, this too shall pass!
(Note: someone forgot to mention that when it passes, something else will inevitably arrive to take its place!)
So, love the messy and love the beautiful is what they say; allow the two to co-exist. And within both find unconditional love, peace, and acceptance of “what-is.”
They tell you to count your blessings and remind you that it can always be worse. They speak of pain as inevitable but of suffering as optional.
These are all examples of wisdom teachings that speak to pain and suffering of mind and body.
In theory and on paper, all of this sounds doable, but in real life my pain feels like it is or becomes my suffering, and both feel unavoidable—almost inescapable.
We all know that events themselves cannot directly cause suffering, and that it’s the mind that is choosing to think the painful thoughts that cause us to suffer. But there are times when even I question the very fine line that exists between the two.
You see my brain is “different” in how it interprets pain. I’ve been told that my brain is wired in such a way that my body operates unlike others.
I wonder, should this make me feel special or abnormal?
For most of my life, I have lived with daily pain. For many months now, however, this pain has crept into my nights. (I’m assuming that I have inherited my dear mother’s “restless leg syndrome.”) Because of this, my mental chatter has escalated and the conversations that I have with myself have intensified.
Ego shouts that nothing is simple, diagnosable, or fixable for me and that I have every reason to be resentful and angry. Ego loves to feed into my fears, which feed right back into my old, unhealthy stories.
Soul whispers that all is well, reminding me to embrace “what is” (whatever it is) with dignity and grace. Soul knows no fear and loves to support my new, healthy stories, my dreams, and my bigger life.
More often than not, I choose not to argue with reality, for I am most familiar with the consequences. You lose every time!
Today, however, was different. Quite sleep deprived and upset, I gave myself permission to resist and to fight. I allowed myself to express and feel everything—without constraint and the need to edit my suffering.
I immersed myself in all of my old stories. I cried and even wept. Then I went to visit with my mother in the cemetery, where I cried and wept some more.
This one life that I’ve been given I know is a gift, but so often it feels like such a great mystery to me—an uncertain mess—an impossible enigma.
Each time I find myself beginning to advance and evolve in my life, there is something that pulls me back—an obstacle that emerges to redirect my energy.
As a result of this, I sometimes feel like an imposter in my own career, like a fraud, and I judge and even mock myself unfairly and unkindly. I would ask myself:
- Is my new story around my “life” (health, career, friendship) a mere delusion?
- What is to become of all of my dreams? What about my bigger life journey?
- How can I properly step into my chapter of service while still deeply entrenched in my chapter of pain?
My coach tells me that this is a significant part of my bigger life journey. She reminds me that with each new challenge I am deepening, evolving, and honing in on my skills. I am also learning the lessons that I must continue to learn.
I don’t look at my life as an opportunity to realize my full potential, but rather I see it as my duty and ultimate responsibility to fulfill it.
But the way I feel so often: depleted, lacking in energy, and consumed by pain is not how I envisioned my role as “messenger” or my chapter of service.
My coach, my family, and my friends all continue to support me as best they can, but it’s my study of healing, wellness, and science that has truly helped me to help myself the most.
In studying both happiness and sadness, I have learned the truth that lies within both. The experience of life is realistically a 50/50 split between positive and negative emotions.
Pain is part of the human experience. It’s part of what it means to be a fully evolved human being.
The point is not to put on a smile to mask the negative emotion, but rather to practice feeling and acknowledging the negative without allowing it to consume you and become your life’s filter.
This is my daily work: to be with whatever is in my body. My dear mother and I called it the “suchness of life.” I share it with you in this month’s blog as I feel that it is essential for everyone to understand this concept.
Life is not about fighting, hating, and/or avoiding the pain and suffering. It’s about being open and honoring the coexistence of the different mind and body states. It’s all part of the deal.
In studying mindfulness I am also learning how to process, manage, and even move towards my pain. I do this by noticing what is arising rather than immersing myself in it and becoming consumed in self-pity.
And so I will finish today with a prayer written by Elizabeth Lesser at the end of her book Marrow (a truly beautiful read) where she writes:
“Please, remove the veils so I might see what is really happening here, and not be intoxicated by my will and my worries. Remove the veils that I might see beyond my fantasies and fears. Remove the veils that I might see.”
Remove the veils that become my filters that define my thoughts and my stories, which create my ultimate suffering. Today and every day I will do my best to practice surrender, love, and peace no matter what!
But the odd time, when necessary, I will also give myself permission to feel and express everything no matter what!
I encourage you, too, to embrace life in this way—fully alive and fully present. I believe it is this co-existence that will keep us grounded, balanced, and peaceful.