Yoga has revealed that pain, when properly understood, offers gifts.
Such gifts include happiness, compassion, gratitude, acceptance, spiritual enlightenment, purification and improvement in our lives.
I wish I had learned this lesson earlier in life, instead of in my 40’s—it would have made for a much easier ride along the way. I would sit my much younger self down and explain this important key to living a happier life. I can think of so many times in my life when re-aligning my perception of pain would have been helpful.
When I find myself in a really difficult or painful yoga pose, I allow the pain to flow through me—breathing and relaxing into it—rather than resisting it and allowing it to paralyze me. I began noticing that the inevitable pains that some postures naturally bring to the surface were laying the foundation for change and growth.
One day when I was practicing yoga, I thought: “What if I had the ability right now to master any pose I wanted to with ease?” My conclusion? How boring that would be. The practice would no longer serve as an emotional, spiritual and physical teacher—nor would the lack of challenge make it any fun.
Paralleling life, my body is constantly changing and sometimes unstable. When I am on my mat and pain arises, I pause and listen to my body. I ask myself: Is this a “good” pain or a “bad” pain? I am learning to differentiate the two pain sensations so that I do not push my body beyond its limits and induce avoidable suffering.
Good pain is there to gradually push me further and let me know that I am growing and gaining ground. Bad pain is destructive. When I continue to push myself deeper into a place of “bad” pain, the result is always self-inflicted suffering.
In a random savasana I was pondering the question, “Shouldn’t the treatment of pain be applicable to my life experiences as well as my yoga practice? And yes, I know that savasana is theoretically a space of quiet mindful meditation. But we all know that our monkey minds don’t always allow for that.
Questions were floating around in my head:
• Is pain really a guide to personal growth and an opportunity for learning?
• In my life, how can I find comfort in discomfort?
• Are both pleasurable and unpleasurable life experiences presented to us for growth and evolution?
• Is accepting and leaning into pain the cure to suffering?
Once I started looking back on my life, I could see where the most painful experiences had been my greatest teachers. They were the ones that have taught me the most significant lessons even though they were the ones hardest to walk through. My most painful life experiences seem to be the ones that were sent to guide me into some kind of transformation—physical, emotional or spiritual.
If it is really true that we can transform pain with acceptance and love, why do I always find myself avoiding pain? Why do I shut down and create 100-foot walls in an attempt to protect myself from the pain?
However, there have been some painful life situations where, for some reason, I have found comfort in staying there instead of detaching from it and letting it go.
Most problems that I have had in the past with pain have occurred when I have been unwilling or not ready to accept the lessons that the pain had to teach me. It could be that the pain reminds me of my vulnerabilities and my limitations, and I choose not to face them out of fear. Fear is a friend to suffering.
Some life lessons that have come through pain have felt costly and at the time seemed unnecessarily acute. These were the ones where I have vivid memories of crying for hours upon end—-sometimes days.
When I have allowed myself to fall into this space, I have felt a separation between my mind, body and spirit. At the time, I didn’t think I was capable of seeing my way through the suffering.
What I have learned to be true is this: The least resistance I apply to the painful experience, and the quicker I accept the lesson, the faster I move through the suffering.
I want my life experiences to assist in the progress along my spiritual path, making me stronger and wiser, adding value to my life. I consciously open my heart and expand my mind so that I accept every experience and situation for what it has to offer. This allows me to reveal the deeply rooted love and new opportunities that are buried within the pain.
It is in this space that I will continue to evolve.
I have actually found that pain fills my heart and life with love if I allow it to do so. This love comes from the growth my soul experiences through the pain.
I remember two things my grandmother always told me: “The best students get the hardest lessons,” and “The light gets in the cracks.” I didn’t understand what these meant when I was younger, but I do now. Changing my perspective to believe that suffering is a choice has gifted me freedom and power as well as placing me in alignment with my life purpose.
Let pain be your Guru. If you allow it to, It will be a great teacher.
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Apprentice Editor: Pamela Mooman / Editor: Catherine Monkman
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