“There will always be suffering. But we must not suffer over the suffering.” Alan Watts
Last week, I fell. Not metaphorically this time. I physically lost my balance and crashed to the ground. I was walking across the school campus and the shoes I’ve worn since the beginning of the school year failed me. My right foot faltered. Why, I have no idea, and I suppose it doesn’t matter.
Whatever the reason, I fell. Hard.
So hard, in fact, that my left knee was scraped and bloody, my pant leg ripped, and I quickly developed a large bump right under the scrape.
After I relayed my encounter with the ground to a friend, he told me that one of the reasons it’s particularly devastating for the elderly to fall is because they forget how to fall. There is actually a right way to fall. He went on to further explain that Tom Brady knows exactly how to do this. You have to roll with it.
Often times, we brace for the impact. We tense up. We think if we can create our own force against it, the impact won’t affect us as much. We fight against the fall, rather than flowing with it.
This approach, while ingrained in us, is actually what hurts us.
The more we tense up, the more we try to fight what’s happening, the more damage we cause.
This is exactly what happens when we take a fall at any part of life. In a relationship, our finances, a goal we were shooting for. We brace for impact, and it doesn’t benefit us to do that.
When I knew I was going to fall, when the connection with the ground was imminent, I went with it. It all happens so quickly, doesn’t it? But I could feel my body giving into the fall, allowing it to happen.
I bounced right back up.
Learning how to fall in these instances is so important because it will determine how well we rise after the fall.
It’s important to roll with it and fall forward.
When you’re in the thick of an emotional upheaval, the instinct is to brace for impact. It’s to resist the suffering you think is coming. So we do everything we can, in thought and in action, to prevent suffering.
It is this very attempt at preventing suffering that causes more suffering! It’s the bracing for impact, rather than rolling with it, that keeps us stuck in the pain, thereby making it last longer.
I use these tools, as do my clients, to roll forward from the experience of pain:
1. Acknowledge the energy you’re feeling.
If you are feeling anxiety, fear, doubt, angst, grief, the most important thing you can do is acknowledge it.
Call it by name, but don’t own it.
It isn’t YOUR anxiety/grief/doubt. It’s simply anxiety/grief/doubt energy that you are experiencing.
Acknowledging the energy while refusing to completely receive it into your spirit allows it to move.
2. Declare the situation a success.
Whatever you seek, that’s what you’ll find. If you declare any situation a success, even if you are in the midst of pain within it, you immediately open yourself up to possibilities you didn’t even know were present right before you.
3. Actively allow the lesson to present itself.
Every experience provides a seed of learning, if we focus on it. People and situations are mirrors, showing us different parts of ourselves. Those that we perceive as painful are here to teach us something about us that we can shift, because it isn’t alignment with who we truly are. So use the experiences as the tools they are. Be open to a new way of looking at the pain -- as a teacher.
Make a choice to be deliberate about your perception. If you decide to perceive each situation as a help rather than a hindrance, that’s exactly what you’ll experience. This is how you learn to fall, and fall well. It’s not about the fall itself, it’s about what you do with it.