Reducing and eliminating pain is a fervent quest that many of us are on or have undertaken and I am no exception to this pursuit, but I wonder… is it possible to live a pain-free life?
Understanding the role that pain and suffering serve in our lives may actually help us get one step closer to the blissful existence we all crave.
From a safety standpoint, physical pain is an important, life-saving response that keeps us from injuring ourselves in a thousand different ways every day – the heat from a stove triggers you to pull your hand away avoiding a painful burn and the sharp sear of a knife while preparing food causes you to freeze mid-slice.
These specific responses are set in place as protective mechanisms preventing us from pulling muscles, breaking bones, pushing too hard in activities, eating certain foods and even sitting for too long.
But chronic pain is a whole other beast. Chronic pain is disruptive and damaging. It leads to the breakdown of systems and worse, it leads to suffering – the mental and emotional anguish associated with believing there is no relief available.
Back pain, knee pain, and heartache alike, when endured for long enough, can take its toll on our psyche.
It’s critical to take measures that physically relieve the pain – like changing dietary choices to reduce stress and inflammation, engaging in appropriate activities such as yoga or lower back strengthening that support your body’s healing – but it’s also vital to deal with the mental and emotional suffering that can perpetuate the physical pain cycle.
One way in which we can do this is to recognize what suffering offers us. There’s a reason we have idioms such as “no pain, no gain”. Suffering is a vital part of our existence but only if it is used to sharpen our mental strength and fortify our character in the face of adversity.
In “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Viktor E. Frankel discusses the way in which suffering can only have the power we give to it:
“If there is a meaning in life at all, then there is a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an eradicable part of life… [but] the way in which a man accepts his fate… [and] takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life.”
There are literally thousands of examples where beauty comes only after enduring great pressure, trudging through the muck, and facing the struggle head on. The Lotus flower, the diamond, the birth of new life, developing the strength of our bodies, and even the healing process all require the ability to endure discomfort for a time; we can learn to use it to our advantage, as a way of discovering more peace, greater joy, and lasting health.
The evolution of personal growth and development via “learning the hard way” holds its value, but so does tapping into the wisdom gained from these experiences.
If we choose the path of being enlightened by our experiences we can avoid the pain created by sitting all day or eating certain foods or engaging in activities that no longer serve us.
As you understand your body’s unique health profile you’ll begin to behave in ways that support your overall health and healing which minimizes your experience with pain – and when pain does pop up it will be seen as valuable information on how to ramp up self –care.
A quote that shifted my own mindset around both physical and emotional pain comes from the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali:
“As the mind, so the man; bondage or liberation are in your own mind.”
Mental, emotional, and physical pain can paralyze us if we are not in tune with the role that fear plays. Fear literally exacerbates physical pain, limits our ability to think clearly and propagates the cycle of suffering. Learning that you can break free from that cycle simply by shifting your own mindset not only allows you to live a more pain-free life, it also gives you the opportunity to use it a tool for growth.
In Love & Gratitude,
P.S. Need a starting place to put all these pieces together? Click here to find out more about my Yoga for Pain Relief Program.