Most of us will do anything to avoid suffering!
After all who wants to feel, hurt, fear, anger, or disappointment!
I know I definitely don't!
And I can't tell you the crazy things I've done in oder to avoid suffering!
I have used everything from distraction to denial and everything in between!
Nothing was off limits when I decided I wanted to avoid suffering!
But guess what?
I am so excited to share something I learned with you because this is now a huge passion of mine! (Borderline obsession actually)
I no longer hate suffering, and I definitely don't try to avoid it anymore.
In fact, on really good days, I welcome it!
Now before you go thinking I'm crazy, let me tell you why I have become a fan of suffering!
Suffering introduces me to myself!
You see, it's easy to think you know yourself when things are going well and life is easy.
But in a way that's really shallow living.
It's only scratching the surface of who you really are, and what you are capable of.
But when you are suffering, when you are really in pain, parts of you come out that you never knew were "in there."
You are introduced to sides of yourself you have never met before.
And sometimes you are shocked and mortified by what is revealed, (your shadow or ego side) and sometimes you are amazed and mystified at your own beauty and strength.
Now, when you have been introduced to a side of yourself that you never knew existed, you have the opportunity to lean into it, to learn, to grow, and to become more than you currently are.
Have you ever leaned into suffering?
Up until a few years ago, I had no idea to do this!
I had always reached the point of feeling pain and then immediately go to a defence mechanism to minimize what I was feeling.
I had no idea that I was missing out on something beautiful and life changing by running from my suffering.
So, how exactly do you lean into suffering?
First, when the feeling of suffering arises acknowledge it and name it.
I use the word suffering as a generalization of the feelings that cause us pain, but it's important, as you go through this, to actually name what you're feeling.
What type of suffering are you experiencing?
Maybe it's fear, anxiety, sadness, depression, or hurt.
Whatever it is, when the feeling comes up, it's important to distinguish it from all the other feelings, and give it a name.
Simply say, "Right now, I am feeling __________"
Something as simple as naming your feelings can make a huge difference because it is the first step to breaking your suffering into smaller, more manageable states.
It's the first step in empowering you to handle them.
Instead of just being a huge cloud of suffering that seems to be taking over, you can express what the pain actually is and contain it.
Second, once you have named the suffering, locate it in your body.
Where do you feel this emotion?
In your stomach? In your shoulders? Your back? Your chest? Your arms?
Where does the suffering manifest itself physically?
Once you have located it, simply say "Right now I am feeling ___________ and it's manifesting (or located) in my_________"
After this breathe in for 4 seconds, and on the inhale name the suffering.
Hold the breathe for 7 seconds and while you're holding, imagine your breathe going to the part of your body where your suffering is located, filling up that space.
Then let the breath out for 8 seconds, and on the exhale you are letting the acceptance of that suffering empower you by relaxing into it.
I do this by saying a mantra on the exhale.
One I often use and that I've shared before is "Even thought I am feeling this, I am still ok"
You can use this one if you find it helpful, or make one up for yourself.
(The only thing to stay away from is thoughts like "I can't believe this is happening" or "This is the worst." Remember this is about acceptance and empowerment through acceptance and your mantra should reflect that.)
Now the first time I did this my mind went absolutely crazy!
It was screaming in protest, telling me I couldn't handle the suffering, and that what I as doing wasn't helping anything.
But I stuck with it and guess what?
An amazing thing happened!
When you refuse to interfere with your suffering, however painful, emotions come and go!
They are NOT PERMANENT - even though they may feel that way when you are experiencing them.
By leaning into them and giving them a chance to be heard, they will quiet down!
They will run their course.
Suffering only lingers when we don't accept it or we try to interfere with it.
The emotions you attach to suffering then become louder, and more intense so that they can get our attention.
They want to get our attention because they have valuable things to tell us and if we don't deal with what they are trying to tell us we often have dire consequences.
Your suffering is there to HELP YOU!!
When we suffer in our relationships, its because something needs fixing.
When we suffer in our work, it's because some kind of action or rest is necessary.
When we suffer in our friendships, or in our parenting, or in our community, that suffering is trying to wake us up to the fact that change is needed.
And if we don't change, life has the tendency of making that change for us!
And this can be in some pretty unpleasant ways!
If we don't lean into what our suffering is telling us and take the action required we often lose our relationships or our health or our community.
The sooner you get to accepting your suffering, and hear what it is that it is trying to bring to your attention, the sooner you can make the changes that your life is demanding from you!
The sooner you can reconnect with the creative part of your brain that can actually navigate the situations that is causing the suffering!
That is the beauty and magic of leaning in.
It seems so counter intuitive!
That accepting the reality of suffering, and going deeper into it, is the only way out of your suffering.
I guess it really is the road less traveled that makes all the difference.
So how do you experience peace? Joy? Love? Acceptance? Authenticity?
By walking the road of suffering!
The beautiful gifts are there for you if tune in to what your suffering is trying to tell you.
And you can only tune in through leaning into the pain even more!
No amount of distraction or denial or blaming others is going to do it.
But you already knew that, didn't you?