Pain, the Gateway to Peace
Are you open? Are you moving through each experience of your life with a passion for exploration? Do you want not a moment to pass by in which you feel fulfilled?
More and more students are asking what to do about the pain they are experiencing in their lives. Sometimes the pain is physical, sometimes, mental, sometimes emotional, and sometimes it’s a deep felt pain that appears to pierce one’s very soul. Sometimes the pain is so subtle you don’t even notice it as pain, like in yoga class when the passing thought, “I wish she would teach Pigeon pose today” arises. The world appears to be changing so much more these days, so how do we as practitioners of yoga adapt? I’d like to share with you an email conversation between a student and myself.
This student has been suffering from severe physical pain and expressed that they thought they were heading in the right direction with their practice only to plummet within the depths of even more pain that was slowly causing dis-ease in their heart and mind. Sound familiar?
Let me begin by stating plainly and simply:
THE SOLUTION IS NOT GETTING RID OF THE PAIN! Whatever form that pain is showing up as. I’m sorry if that is disappointing to you but I’m sure you’ve taken the Advil, or gone for the nature walk enough at this point to realize that those solutions are only a temporary fix, helpful in the moment, but certainly not lasting. The solution is a total transformation of your vision of the pain.
Before I offer you a technique to use, let me remind you that pain whether it be physical, emotional, or mental is simply energy in it’s truest form. When energy flows unobstructed there is no problem, it’s only when we create a dam that conflict arises. Thus remaining open to every circumstance of your life becomes the only practice you will ever need for the fulfillment of peace. You don’t have to life in an Ashram, gain psychic powers or go to the next big workshop (Amrit Level I Professional Yoga Teacher Training at Santosha beginning January 2013)!!! You can of course do these things if you like, but salvation doesn’t cost a dime, require the ability to levitate or take more than a moment to achieve.
So when asked by my student what she should do about the pain she was experiencing in her life my response was as follows:
I can’t tell you want to do, only that you can go within and figure it out for yourself. However, I can tell you what I did the other morning when lethargy and depression were hitting hard.
1) When I noticed I was in trouble (well past the initial stage of getting into the depression and tiredness) I paused for a moment and acknowledged how I felt. I didn’t fight how I felt or try to run away from it, I simply sat with Heather as she was in that moment.
2) As I was being with tired and depressed Heather I recognized a memory of a Heather that was not tired and depressed and again acknowledged my desire to be that version of me again, knowing full well that simply by having the desire I was creating conflict for myself because that was not how I was feeling in the moment. There was a mini internal war going on, what Heather wanted against how Heather was feeling. So, I continued to observe that war. The more I observed it, the more I felt removed from it and was able to move into stage two, acceptance. A part of me was completely ok with watching Heather struggle, and because of that the struggle began to dissipate automatically without my interference.
The part about without my interference is crucial here because it was my interference in the first place that created all that tension! Think about it for a moment… what is war but two opposing sides that believe they are justified in their beliefs and values, so much so that they want to completely annihilate the opposing side. Annihilate, destroy, murder… we think those are qualities present only in the cruel, yet every time we fight what is present we are embodying those qualities within ourselves. In my case regardless of what I wanted, how I felt physically, mentally and emotionally was present and I had no control over it. And of course I could have drank a Red Bull and watched a funny movie to push the depression and tiredness away, but those actions would not have touched the root of the depression, only masked it. Isn’t it a waste of energy on my part to fight with what is currently present? And considering what was present appeared to be a part of me, isn’t it crazy to try to kill a part of myself? Yet we do it all the time.
3) In stage three I recognized that there was a power within me that was facilitating this whole process of relaxation. Even thought I wasn’t the one in the driver seat, the strength I needed was most definitely internal because there was no one else around encouraging me. So, when I realized this, I again got even quieter and asked this Light within me for help. I closed my eyes took a few deep breaths and just let go of the need to fix things myself and asked for the inner Light to guide me. I opened in that moment of Asking and I knew I was sincere because instantly I felt supported and loved and simply better all around. The worldly reason for my depression and lethargy were not gone, however, I had a whole new perspective on life which basically revolved around the fact that I was not alone, I was supported, and since I was the creator of my struggle in the first place I could also be the solution if I continued to ask for help and allow that help to guide me.
That is a real story of a process I went through recently and one that I continuously use every time I find myself in conflict and have the wits about me to remember I don’t have to be in pain anymore. So if you wish try it out, remember the purpose is not to get rid of anything, it’s to simply be at peace with what is. To recognize when you are in conflict and just relax back enough that you can see yourself as the one observing the conflict; observing the thoughts, emotions and sensations. At this stage we do not have the capacity to turn pain on and off like a light switch but we do have the capacity to question the validity of the pain by opening ourselves to it totally and exploring in that space.
When you are in the midst of the pain and you let it’s energy flow completely so you are feeling it all and the tears of sorrow begin to first trickle and then pour like a waterfall. If in the midst of this pain there is also deep felt gratitude to the pain for showing you a part of yourself that is ready to be transformed, deep gratitude towards those teachers that have gone ahead and told you that’s it’s ok to feel the pain, it too will pass, and deep joy in the trust you realize it took to allow you to be at this point, then you know you have taken the next step towards transforming the darkness into Light. The pain now becomes your best friend because it has shown you all the darkness you have been carrying. You will invite transformation by consciously allowing pains emergence in your life, and not only being willing to feel it, but desiring it’s presence because you now trust that a part of you not only wants to heal but knows how! This process cannot be forced, it cannot be faked, it cannot be avoided(thank God!) and it will only come to you when you are ready to truly release the pains hold over you.
I tell you this from experience, now it’s your turn!
In Loving Service,