Why Leaning In To The Pain Is Important

Lying on the couch while chatting with my acupuncturist, we had a conversation about pain, grief, fear and loss. I told him about how when I was finally beginning to face the fear of loss that had been ruling my actions and limiting my life for so long, life gave me the greatest trigger in my best friend getting sick, but he reminded me of something I needed to know.

There is a teacher called Byron Katie and she is all about accepting ‘What Is’, as the path of life. The more we are able to accept everything as if we have chosen it, the better. However, one part of her questioning process that many of us may try to avoid is what she calls the ‘Turnaround’.

An example being:

The Original Thought: I don’t ever want Paul to lie to me again. I don’t ever want to see him ruining his health again. 

The Turnaround: I am willing to… I am willing for Paul to lie to me again. I am willing to see him ruining his health again. I look forward to… I look forward to Paul lying to me again. I look forward to seeing him ruining his health again.

Now how many of us are prepared to be willing to experience the very thing we don’t want or fear again? And even more so, how many of us are prepared to look forward to that feeling or experience in the essence of total life acceptance and embracing what arrives at our door?

Are You Looking Forward to More Pain?

I’d say that most of us would answer this, ‘No way!’ whether someone is abusing us or rejecting us, or we are fearing our health deteriorating further or for me fearing loss, the thought of being willing to experience it is hard enough, but to look forward to experiencing it?

Not easy, is it?

When we have been living with a fear or a struggle for a long time; when we have been resisting the struggle or the experience in life, there comes a point when we can either continue struggling or we can start to release our grip on trying to prevent whatever ‘it’ is from happening.

We may avoid dating for fear of being rejected, but over and over we reject ourselves by being unwilling to let others get to know us. Apart from accepting that we are scared to be rejected, we need to begin to be willing and prepared to be rejected. This is especially hard if we have had an intense amount of rejection in other areas of our lives, often starting in childhood.

And from being willing to be rejected by putting ourselves out there into the dating world, we then need to allow ourselves to not just anticipate in a negative resistant sense, but to actually say ‘Okay… bring it on… I welcome rejection’.

This is a deep form of healing and self-love. Not easy, but very worthwhile. For if we are able to not only embrace the very thing we fear, but welcome it with open arms if rejection comes, we are okay. If rejection doesn’t come, we are still okay. It no longer has a hold over us; it no longer limits our choices and our behaviour. We then can choose to live from a place of power instead of one of false control and strategy that was an attempt to keep us safe.

For me, I need not only to be willing to experience more loss, but to anticipate loss and welcome loss. To understand that loss is a part of life and that I will experience it again, so my fighting against it will not stop it happening; it is my own false sense of control. It clearly doesn’t work when I look at how I have been feeling this past 30 odd years.

Tonglen In Buddhism

girl smiling

There is a practice in Buddhism called Tonglen. It is a compassionate practice where we breathe in the pain or suffering we see or experience and we breathe out spaciousness and expansiveness, thus allowing transformation to take place. I find this practice similar to that of Byron Katie, in that we see or experience something we dislike and we accept it by breathing it in, breathing into the pain or suffering and the breathing out feels a worthwhile way to mindfully allow transformation without holding on to the pain.

Reflecting on the impermanence of this world is a great help to know that nothing is permanent, be it emotions, physical pain, weather, nature… everything flows on and through. We can do this with our own pain or that of another, thereby recognising that there is no separation between us. So if we see someone suffering, we can breathe in that suffering, knowing that as we do, we embrace all those who are suffering in a similar way wherever they may be. As we breathe out spaciousness, we breathe out transformation of this experience and through compassionate awareness can allow change to happen.

On Impermanence

“When our mind is under the influence of attachment, we cling to people, things, or circumstances, thinking that they have the power to bring us happiness. However, since these things are transient—their very nature is to change moment by moment—they are not safe objects to rely on for long-term happiness. When we remember that our possessions do not last forever and our money does not go on to the next life with us, then the false expectations we project upon them evaporate, and we are able to cultivate a healthy relationship with them. If we contemplate that we cannot always remain with our friends and relatives, we will appreciate them more while we are together and be more accepting of our eventual separation.

Contemplating the unpleasant aspect of things we are attached to, also cuts false expectation and enables us to have a more balanced attitude towards them. For example, when we have a car, we will definitely have car trouble. Therefore, no benefit comes from getting too excited about having a new car, and no great catastrophe has occurred if we can’t get a car. If we have a relationship, we will undoubtedly have relationship problems. When we first fall in love, we believe that the other person will be everything we want. This skewed view sets us up for suffering when we realize that he or she isn’t. In fact, no one can be everything we want because we are not consistent in what we want! This simple process of being more realistic cuts attachment, enabling us to actually have more enjoyment.” ~ http://thubtenchodron.org

This reminds me of that great story about the farmer and his son.

“There is a story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbours came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. 

“Maybe,” said the farmer

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbour’s exclaimed.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbour’s again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbour’s congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“Maybe,” said the farmer”

I love this story, it helps me to see that whether we think something we fear is good or bad is a waste of time contemplating, because as the farmer said, it ‘may be’ a positive experience or it may not, but what matters is just accepting and allowing what is to arise.

Willing to embrace the fear of pain and finally looking forward to it is a powerful journey. Are you brave enough to take this journey?

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Kelly Martin
Kelly Martin

Kelly Martin, author of ‘When Everyone Shines But You’ is a dedicated writer and blogger who fearlessly explores life’s deepest questions. Faced with a decade of profound anxiety and grief following the loss of her father and her best friend Michael, Kelly embarked on a transformative journey guided by mindfulness, and she hasn’t looked back since. Through her insightful writing, engaging podcasts, and inspiring You Tube channel Kelly empowers others to unearth the hidden treasures within their pain, embracing the profound truth that they are ‘enough’ exactly as they are.

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