Pain happens

Hello again!  Long time no post.  There have been lots of changes happening for me recently, and for many people this is a time of change and transition.  Just since this summer 4 people I know have moved out of Chicago with their families.  A quick glance at the news will reveal that this is indeed a transformative time for humanity as a whole.

Change can be exciting and it can be challenging.  In fact any process of transformation can involve both of those states – and sometimes both at once!

As humans we are often surprised when change happens, and when it is difficult.  There is a mistaken notion that if we shouldn’t have to feel pain or discomfort supported by advertising and the media. Yet by virtue of being human, pain (in all its varying degrees) is an inevitable part of our experience.  Sometimes the pain is emotional and sometimes it is physical. Either type becomes suffering through our reaction to it.  When we resist, deny or reject difficult experiences, they tend to magnify – the pain insists on being felt.

One of the biggest sources of pain, I think, is this idea that what we are experiencing “should not be.”  We use a lot of energy resisting what is already here.  So, what is the solution?  One of my favorite yoga teachers, Roger Eischens used to say “It is what it is.”  I heard this phrase from him when he was dealing with the brain cancer that eventually caused his death. That simple phrase has saved me a lot of emotional wrangling.  When I feel myself getting caught up in the debate of “this shouldn’t be happening to me” I hear Roger’s voice “It is what it is” and I surrender to the fact of the matter. Marsha Linnehan, who developed Dialectical Behavior Therapy while working with severely suicidal patients describes the concept of “Radical Acceptance” – essentially a letting go of resistance to the truth of what is here.

A great deal of anxiety and stress can be released through this process of accepting what is.  This doesn’t imply approval or complacency, but a simple act of acknowledging and letting go of resistance to the moment.  I sense this as a physical shift – a visceral “letting go” of inner tension that I usually didn’t even realize I was holding. A spontaneous full breath usually follows.  Sometimes I have to remind myself to do this multiple times as the tension creeps up again.  And sometimes what is here really hurts and I get to feel the hurt without all the added tension created by the thought that the hurt shouldn’t be here.  This process can take a long time, depending on the situation, and in those times, I try to notice the degrees of pain – acknowledging moments of relief – or moments of “less than” the pain or difficulty that was here before. By being willing to be with what is, I get back into the flow of life and inevitably, the hurt moves through and I come out on the other side. 

2 thoughts on “Pain happens”

  1. Words to live by: "It is what it is." I use the expression a lot to remind myself to accept circumstances, conditions and people as they are and for what they are. Eliminating resistance is such a hard thing to do, and yet it must be done. Your post is a useful reminder. I always enjoy reading your thoughtful comments and observations. You ought to post more often.

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