So often the most wonderful things in life are even better when we take the time to slow down and really savor them.
Food, moments of wonder and beauty, great sex—don’t you wish you could prolong these experiences of pleasure and experience them on a deeper level?
We have the opposite reaction to pain and suffering, of course. Almost always, the instinctual reaction to something uncomfortable is to get away from it, and if you can’t get away from it, let the pain be swift and fast. It’s like the old Band-Aid proverb: get through the pain as quickly as possible, rather than drawing it out.
Rationally, this makes sense; we are biologically wired to move away from pain, because pain often signals a danger to our well-being, and danger ultimately equals the possible threat of death. Our evolutionary impulse is to survive, so, we instinctively move away from pain and toward pleasure—things that help us (and our species) stay alive, like food, sex, and safety. Simple.
The problem is when we habitually move away from everything that is uncomfortable or painful, we are setting ourselves up for a very limited life—one that is divorced from at least 50 percent of experience. We become incredibly vulnerable to external events; if our sense of well-being and happiness is reliant on whether things go our way, the outside world looms as a scary and untrustworthy place.
We experience ourselves often as victims to our circumstance. The people we experience as difficult become our enemies and the ones who seem similar to us or make us feel good are our friends. Again, simple, though inherently problematic, for those of us who instinctively move toward growth and complexity, and who inherently distrust, blaming others for our internal experience when those thoughts and feelings arise.
What’s the solution? Get counter-instinctual. Start to develop a relationship with your pain, your discomfort, and your suffering. Notice your ability to stay present and tolerate the feelings of shame or anger without collapsing. Get curious about what intensity feels like on a sensational level—in your body as it is happening, rather than simply thinking about it. Slow the process down, and rather than running from the feelings, let yourself get a little messy, which I promise will almost always lead to a greater and deeper understanding of what’s going on.
Slow and dirty.
Because the heart is a muscle that doesn’t discriminate between good and bad, the more we practice opening to the challenging and painful moments in life, the more deeply and intimately we can experience the pleasurable ones. And perhaps, with enough practice, we can stop distinguishing so acutely between “good” and “bad,” and relate to the myriad forms and shapes and textures that life presents us with as wondrous.
Even if they hurt.
Author: Sashi Gollub
Image: Instagram/elephant journal
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis