As children we are taught to avoid pain. If you put your hand on a hot pan and it hurts, you quickly take it off. Which makes sense, it’s important not to burn yourself! But this habit translates into other types of pain as we grow up and this avoidance strategy doesn’t always help, if our goal is to move forward and not re-create the experience somewhere else in our lives. Like everything in life there is a balancing act between making good choices that mean we don’t stay in toxic friendships, situations or relationships, allow ourselves to be abused or diminished and leaning into our experiences to uncover the gift.
So what about pain and it’s purpose in our life? It doesn’t take a genius to realise that our human experience is defined by contrasting energies. That it would be impossible to experience joy, if all that existed were joy. We would have no comparison, no way to know what joy was. It is only by experiencing the contrast to joy, sadness or pain, that the feeling of joy is available to us at all.
We have a habit of being very binary when it comes to emotions, joy=good pain=bad. But what if the truth were that all experiences were neutral and only had the meaning we as individuals assigned to them? The truth is, whether we like it or not, whether we label certain times or experiences in our life as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ the most powerful growth usually comes as a result of a challenging experience. And here comes the balancing act again between allowing ourselves to feel our emotions and not languishing in them and playing victim.
I have been challenged recently by some not so fun stuff in my personal life, and there have been moments when my desire to contract, to close down, to run away from what I’m feeling has been overwhelming. But years and years of study have taught me some powerful tools, that when I can lift my head above the shit for 5 minutes take a breath and remember work wonders! So I thought I’d share them with you as a reminder of the resources we all have available to us:
1.What you resist persists
For as long as you don’t ‘fess up’ to what’s really going on for you, look at what the challenge is and name the fear, the longer it will continue to hurt you. It is very difficult to know what to do with something if you don’t know what it ‘really’ is!
2. Look Deeper
It’s too easy to play victim and decide that the reason you’re hurting is because of the actions/lack of actions of someone else or a situation that has ‘happened to you’. But usually if you dig a little deeper, you find that there is something under those surface emotions that isn’t about anyone else, it belongs to you.
3. Lean into the discomfort
A reminder from a good friend recently! Get curious about it. Meditate invite your discomfort in for a cup of tea, like an old friend and ask it “what have you come to show me?” When I started leaning into my discomfort a couple of weeks ago, I text this friend and said “I’m doing it, it hurts ouch, pain, pain, pain!” – very mature I hear you holler 😉 But as I persisted and allowed myself to continue to leanin an incredible release occurred.
4. Give yourself permission to fall apart
Being spiritual isn’t about being positive, it’s about being real. Real means owning all the parts that make up who you are. The fear, the I’m not enough, I’m too much, I hurt, I’m hurting other people, I’m doing a shitty job… whatever it is. When allowed to become a conversation in your head it gathers momentum, it sniggers at you from the corner of your mind, it looks at you distastefully, it builds shame. When allowed to be voiced with a friend or in a journal, it suddenly begins to fall apart, to dissipate, to seem ridiculous. Shine a light of those shadows!
5. Be gentle with yourself
After 6 years of 1to1 coaching I feel I can say with authority, everyone is their own worst critic! When stuff gets real, when you feel raw, when the gremlins come out and you’re not operating and achieving in peak performance mode in whatever area of your life. Be gentle with yourself, compassionate, kind. Up the self love stakes even if you don’t feel like it, or like you don’t deserve it. Do more of what you know makes you feel good! For me flowers, dancing, singing, writing, working. I make a point of going the extra mile for myself, because that is exactly what I would do for anyone I loved.
6. Look for the gift
Every challenging situation brings with it a gift of equal or greater measure! What is life, the universe, this situation trying to show me about myself? For me I have to say that anything that sends me spinning always equals a significant deepening of spiritual practice and self love. It offers an opportunity for me to look at how I am standing in my own way, what thought, belief or fear has contributed to what has been created. What vibration I am continuing to hold that has attracted the experience to me.
Trust that life is happening for you, not to you. That every interaction is holy, that each moment offers up an opportunity. That everything is happening in perfect divine ‘right’ timing. Look for the signs! The universe speaks to you, some of us hear, see, feel or know intuitively. It might be a book recommended to you 3 times in the same week. It might be the same messaging from a movie, a song that jumped out at you and a story someone shared with you. Look and listen because the universe is giving you constant hints as to how you can grow through this experience.
I was watching an interview with one of my all time favorite authors last night Neale Donald Walsch and he offered up this helpful question, for when we are struggling to see reason in a situation. “And what does this have to do with the agenda of my soul?”