June 9, 2014

Is Pain Bad? ~ Dr. Katherine Coder

running light summer kid fun outside

“The problem is not that the truth is harsh but that liberation from ignorance is as painful as being born. Run after truth until you are breathless. Accept the pain involved in re-creating yourself afresh.”

~ Naguib Mahfouz


It’s something I’ve thought a lot about and recently written about. It’s something I’ve spent a lot of time avoiding—and experiencing as well. Pain, trauma, suffering . . . trauma, pain, suffering . . . suffering, suffering, suffering. Notes on a keyboard—loops to get stuck in—emotions painted on the inside of a downward spiral—and, surprisingly effective teachers on the healing path.

Without pain, most of us would not have thrown ourselves on the couch of a therapist, experimented with near starvation on a vision quest, contorted ourselves into a panoply of twisted postures in yoga, deprived ourselves of oxygen intentionally through breathing techniques, sat for hours in total discomfort while meditating, jumped into a circle of ayahuasca drinkers only to purge through both ends for hours or leapt into the arms of Paxil, Lexapro, Xanax, Prozac (or any of their friends).

We would not have changed our diets, ditched those toxic influences or prioritized our growth and “getting better.” We would not have spent those thousands of dollars to learn about ourselves in weekend workshops or flown halfway around the world (a few times over) to quest, pilgrimage, meet our teachers—in human and non-human form, retreat and seek out the sacred.

We wouldn’t have felt the need to change.

We wouldn’t have dared to be different, more whole and happier.

And, frankly, we would not have looked our conditioning square in the face and said, “Fuck you. I don’t believe you anymore. You’re not serving me. What’s next?”

So, is pain bad?

Because of it, we did a lot of great things.

We changed in ways that are serving us. We made new friends and left the comfortable but dissatisfying cocoon we found ourselves in. We faced our “demons,” learned that they are okay too and that they have a place within us. We learned about who we are, what we like, what we dislike, what crosses a boundary, what’s exciting, what makes us feel alive, how to access our soul nature, how to meet ourselves deeply and connect with others and a whole bunch of other awesome things. And, because of all of it, we feel more aligned, harmonious and alive.

So, am I a masochist? Am I romanticizing or glorifying a human experience that does not merit such praise?

I’ll tell you what I am not doing.

I’m not condoning intentionally causing others pain. I’m not romanticizing suffering or advocating that we stay in loops of pain through the various avenues of self-harm we have at our disposal. I do not think that being traumatized is okay. No one deserves to have pain inflicted on them either. And, I do not think that you deserve to be in pain.

Having said that, when we want to transform, we must go straight to the place where it hurts. Pain shows us our target.

When we dive into those places, we find the places calling out for attention, love and care. We find the places that want to be heard, seen, felt and touched. We find the places that feel forgotten—the ones pushed into the subconscious or even deeper into the velvety darkness of the unconscious. Allowing ourselves to contact that pain means initiating the flow of our life force energy back into those spots so that they can rejoin the whole of us. Being with those places is embracing more of us—more of who we are—and becoming even more present to our beautiful body-minds.

With the right kind of attention and care, we can then release the energy stuck in those painful spots. With that release, we can finally breathe our life back into those places and feel how much more deeply we are connected to our own being.

That more profound inner connectivity is immediately reflected back outwards into our outer realities. Perhaps we notice the sweet notes of the song birds outside our windows, or feel the warmth of the sun penetrate us in a whole new way or feel the miraculous way the wind tickles our skin.

We begin to notice how much more we feel connected to the things around us.

It’s a feeling of relaxed simplicity—ease and peace. But, this ease and peace has moved far beyond being a mental construct or an idea. It has found a home in our bodies and hearts. It’s singing its own song through us—a song that is us and that connects us to everything around us.

In these moments, we can delight in being miracles, perfectly harmonious with everything around us and in us.

And, we can look back at that pain and say, “Thank you.” Thank you for showing me where to go, where to feel, where to understand, and where to love. Thank you for helping me find my wholeness.

Thank you. I love you.

Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Apprentice Editor: Ola Weber/ Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Shahril Khmd at Pixoto


Read 2 Comments and Reply

Read 2 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Katherine Coder