We go to almost unbelievable lengths to avoid pain. We keep ourselves busy with full diaries, have a drink, go shopping, spend hours on Facebook, watch films, read books and so on. I’m not saying all these activities are bad and should be avoided, but there certainly is a rather large grain of truth in the ancient Buddhist teaching about suffering being created by desire and cravings.
Sorry to sound so obvious but pain, be it in the form of sadness, fear, jealousy, envy or whatever label we put on it, is an inevitable part of life. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there is deep, inherent wisdom hidden in the most painful chapters of our lives, should we just learn to sit with our feelings and try not to run away with the stories created by the Wild Wild West that are our minds.
As I write this, I am in great pain. My heart is aching and I am experiencing feelings of sadness, guilt and helplessness triggered by a loved one’s severe addiction problem. Without going into too much detail let’s just say this person is someone I truly love and my life would look very different (and not necessarily in a good way!) if he hadn’t been a part of my human journey when I was much younger.
So I am in deep gratitude towards this person, which makes things even more challenging for the conditioned part of my humanness – the part that always wants to find solutions and fix things, the part that believes it is my duty to control life. As a healer I also have an innate tendency to believe love is always gentle and forgiving and if I just gave him one more chance… Of course, none of these things neither work nor are true. But I am human, as are you.
As we find ourselves in a position where we have assumed responsibility for something that isn’t ours to carry to begin with, we end up getting hurt over and over again. If we really look at these tendencies we can see they are just quick fixes to make the pain go away. Like robots we just go ahead and do the same thing over and over again, unable to face the fact it does not work.
There is also a much wiser, much more courageous part in me, and in you. This part knows pain is ok. It’s fine to sit with it, feel it without running away. It knows sometimes we can’t do it alone and need help.
It knows there is a jewel of wisdom and growth waiting within if we stop wishing for things to be different and let go of control. It understands our need to find justice, but gently guides us away from blame and victim mentality towards a place where we find peace from within ourselves. This part in me has guided me to draw the line where I will not place myself in a position where I will be subject to verbal or physical aggression ever again, but where I still allow myself the feel the pain and helplessness that come with the understanding I cannot help anyone else but myself.
My wonderful friend and colleague Lisa always says that we cannot make anyone do anything. We can’t make anyone go to rehab, our mothers become more tolerant, our lovers come back, our friends keep secrets or our bosses become more flexible. All we can do is make sure we don’t create more pain by trying to escape pain.
And eventually, as I have been sitting with myself long enough, I am starting to experience new levels of compassion towards myself. I can slowly learn to tolerate, then accept, then like, then love the parts of myself that feel helpless and weak. I can start nurturing the scared child within that feels ungrateful and alone.
As my understanding about myself grows I will also start experiencing genuine love towards those in my life that are my biggest and most challenging teachers. I can watch them from a distance and wish them well while accepting I cannot make them change. But I can change. I can find an understanding where pain is nothing but a way to let me get closer to myself, closer to life.