Can you befriend Pain?

by elizabethbrantley

Every morning I have found that I put myself through a series of relatively painful positions in my yoga practice. Some are awkward, some are strenuous, some are just plain hurtful. However, at the end of the practice, no matter what pain or discomfort I felt during the hour, I leave with a halcyon peaceful feeling, as if a part of my soul has been put back into its place, slowly, yet, steadily becoming more whole.

This morning I did something I rarely do and checked my emails before going to yoga. Here in the dark sixes of the morning, I was taken by surprise. The act of checking ones email requires certain guards to be up. I had not yet donned these defenses for my day. I wasn’t ready for the email I received. It stabbed me in the subtle hours before dawn taking my breath away with a painful, yet honest truth.

While the email was quite encouraging in some ways, it too held an ominous message that I wasn’t enough. It conveyed that there was a lot more work to be done, work I didn’t know how to get done. It pointed to the fact that maybe, perhaps, I was further from my goal than I had thought. In simple terms, it was painful.

I went on to teach yoga after this and found I couldn’t help but talk of this phenomenon of pain. Although I had gone through this pain a few times before, I noticed that I was handling it differently this time. As I was twisting my body in eagle pose, I realized how this change in my reaction was due to my yoga practice. Now, I found I could observe the pain. I could touch it, see it and hold it in my hands, like an injured beautiful bird that I couldn’t help but marvel at, despite its pain. I was separated enough so that part of me knew the truth that I was enough, despite certain accomplishments I had not yet done.

In every pose I went to the edge of my physical discomfort and was reminded of how to deal with pain. Stop, be and breath. I realized that this was exactly what I had done when I read the email and its rejection in the morning. I sat with it, writhing in the discomfort, and welcomed it and its new reality into my day.

Just like the poses I find myself in every morning, Life puts us in awkward, contorted positions with others, ourselves and with Life. These can be painful. Yet it is how we deal and interpret this pain that then we find some power over it. Just like a challenging pose, can we breathe into it? Can we accept it fully? Can we suddenly become fully aware of our limit, physically, emotionally, spiritually, career-wise, relationally, etc? Can we find the place that says, “Yes, ok. This is as far as you can go today. This must then be enough”. Can we say that despite the voices, our your included, that are telling you they need more? You are better than this.

When we sit and breath with pain, we realize that it isn’t “bad”. It is simply an indicator.

The truth is that we are continuously growing, therefore we are always striving, looking forward, trying to accomplish something. This is in our nature; it’s called growth. It is the promise of Life. But there come these moments of searing truth that point out to you just how far you are from your desired destination.

That is all that pain really is. It’s the man on the side of the street that you stop to ask for directions who tells you that  you are further from your destination than you anticipated.

But who are you to say that you don’t need to spend a few more hours in the car, on the journey?

Who are you to say there is a timeline, a deadline, and a need to be there right now?

At least you know where you are going. At least you are on the right road, you have a map, and helpers along the way. At least you have the time to sit with your discomfort and pain, and ride with it for a little bit, seeking to understand it as you would a new friend. What does it have to offer you? What does it mean that it is with you right now? Can you trust that there is a lesson, a need, a higher purpose to the delay and the pain that you
don’t understand? Can you understand that it is because we care so much that we have the ability to hurt so much? Can we stop judging, dismissing or shunning the pain, and welcome it into the passenger seat, not for the whole journey, but just for a little, just until it naturally wants to get out and leave?