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Soulful Sundays: Pain

"Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something." -TPB

Temporarily ignore any negative associations with the word 'pain' for one minute while you read this paragraph. Feel down to the very fiber of your soul, the fiery passion that is at the center of every human. The spirit of life that drives us forward. The will to create, to love, to belong, and to be powerful. Now ask yourself, how important is pain in forging and refining that human will? Struggle, frustration, and pain are what make the breakthroughs possible. They give depth to our character and make us more resilient. Pain is an essential ingredient to our humanity and doesn't need to be vilified wholesale.

There are two ways to learn -- inspiration and experience -- and while we would like to believe that we can learn everything we need from research, we all know that isn't true. There comes a time when you must put into practice what you have learned and face the risk that the world that you imagined does not line up with reality. When you step into the boxing ring that is life you are assuredly going to take some unexpected blows, but it is important to remember that with each failure there is an opportunity for growth. If we don't actively seek the growth, then we start to suffer and begin to blame others for our misfortune. Another way to phrase it comes from the Buddhist tradition: "Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional."

If we choose to look at pain as 'discomfort' instead of 'bad,' it gives us a new tool for growth. Regular exposure to manageable levels of discomfort builds our ability to deal with unexpected boluses of larger discomfort. If we go without such exposure, our bodies and minds grow accustomed to comfort and, in essence, atrophy. We are left running to the easy options which invariably lead to blame and suffering. And, yes, some pain is so extreme that running is the best option. You wouldn't elect to step into the boxing ring with Mike Tyson. In these cases, we must retreat, regroup, and develop a new strategy if it is something we wish to face again.

I'll leave you this week with a few questions that I routinely ponder. In what ways am I succeeding in placing myself in discomfort and learning from it? In what important areas am I choosing comfort (these are almost always accompanied by blame)? What emotions and situations am I unwilling to face? How can I surrender to discomfort in order to learn from it? The next time it rains, go outside and stand in it for 5 minutes. A little rain never hurt anyone.

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