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Leaning Into Our Pain

Trying to avoid the inevitable pain, messiness, and unpredictability that comes with life only serves to prevent learning. Indeed, suffering is the result of trying to avoid life. Life cannot be avoided because you are life and no matter how much you try to perform, perfect, please, or prove, you cannot escape yourself.
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"Something hurts, lean in. You just lean into that point until it loses its power over you. There's a certain amount of suffering that you have to be willing to sustain if you want to have a good life. And the real trick is to be able to sustain it with your heart open and still be loving." - Will Smith

I have spent much of my life resisting and trying to outrun, outsmart, and outperform my pain by trying to make thing in my life certain and definite. Categorizing things as black or white, good or bad, and all or nothing made me feel safer and more in control. However, my inability to lean into the discomfort restricted my ability to experience love, fulfillment, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to the fullest. Resisting my pain helped me realize that while pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

Trying to avoid the inevitable pain, messiness, and unpredictability that comes with life only serves to prevent learning. Indeed, suffering is the result of trying to avoid life. Life cannot be avoided because you are life and no matter how much you try to perform, perfect, please, or prove, you cannot escape yourself.

Life patiently and continually presents us with opportunities for learning. We often fall into the trap of believing that we need to "pass the test" or "overcome the problem" but life is not meant to be solved. Things come together and fall apart again and again like waves in the ocean.

Healing, hope, and strength come from allowing ourselves to be with the now. By allowing ourselves to lean into what is. By allowing ourselves to be affected. By growing our capacity to be human. By experiencing life in its full expression. In the words of Pema Chodron:

"Instead of blaming our discomfort on outer circumstances or on our own weakness, we can choose to stay present and awake to our experience, not rejecting it, not grasping it, not buying the stories that we relentlessly tell ourselves. This is priceless advice that addresses the true cause of suffering - yours, mine, and that of all living beings."

• Bring to mind a conversation or encounter that you know you will face in the next week that challenges you. Pick something that gets you off balance just thinking about it.
• Let yourself all the thoughts and feelings that come up that are associated with this conversation or encounter.
• In the privacy of your own brain, work to develop new and creative responses to the circumstance.
• In your creative imagination, explore what it would look like for you to show up in this conversation or encounter with just a bit more courage and compassion.
• A couple of times a day, practice leaning into your discomfort in the privacy of your own mind. Do not resist your brain's natural impulses as they come up. By leaning into your discomfort intentionally and mindfully, you stimulate your brain in ways that develop greater flexibility and open avenues for greater behavioral choice.
• Remember that you transform your life, breath by breath. "By leaning into your discomfort not by leaping over it."

Mantra: Today, I resist nothing. I lean into the experience of life.