The Pains Of Life Are Not The Problem. It’s Our Aversion To Them That Causes Suffering

Published on: March 14, 2019

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Unleashing the Power Within: Embracing Life’s Challenges

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.” — Khalil Gibran

Close your eyes for a moment, and let your mind wander to a current problem that weighs on your heart. Take a deep breath and try to visualise the situation, considering if others are involved. Now, let’s shift our perspective. Imagine zooming out like a curious observer on Google Earth, gazing down upon yourself. How does your problem appear from this bird’s-eye view? Take notice of the world around you, the local park, the swimming pool, the roads, and the familiar landmarks. What do you see? In this exercise, we discover that when we are entangled in our problems, we often lose sight of the bigger picture; the countless details of life unfolding simultaneously. We become so consumed by our own struggles that we cannot recognise our thoughts, rather than the events themselves, often serve as the source of our pain.

It’s true that no one is immune to the ravages of life. Even a tender child, just entering this world, experiences the painful journey of birth. Its umbilical cord, a lifeline to nourishment, is abruptly severed, and it must take its first breath alone. Every one of us faces our share of pain and suffering. But here’s the beautiful truth: the degree to which we suffer lies within our control. Our beliefs about our pains and worries determine whether we are shackled by our circumstances or empowered to overcome them. So I ask you, do you believe you alone hold the power to shape the quality of your life? It’s a pivotal question, for it is in this belief we either remain trapped in our problems or seek a way out. Life is undeniably challenging. Yet, when we make our problems the sole focus of our attention, we will always find reasons to be disappointed. Sometimes life grants us favour, while at other times, the tides turn against us, leaving us in unforeseen circumstances.

Embracing Life’s Unpredictability

“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.” — Rumi

“How can things be smooth sailing one minute and then suddenly turned on their head the next?” I don’t pretend to hold all the answers. But wisdom has taught me to observe the patterns of life, which, at times, may seem chaotic and capricious. Yet, let us not mistake this chaos for life’s lack of purpose. Perhaps we don’t always understand why certain events unfold as they do. However, when we look back at the tapestry of our problems, we can often see how each piece falls into place with perfect harmony. This realisation beckons us to ponder: If we cannot control the outcomes of life, what power do we possess within the confines of our existence?

Ah, it is our attitude, the one true constant we can control, that holds the key. This is why the extent of our suffering rests within our own volition. The event itself does not cause our pain. After all, if Viktor Frankl could endure the horrors of Nazi concentration camps and emerge as one of the most revered psychiatrists of our time, we, too, can rise above our problems. Can you grasp the notion that your problems are mere subjects of your thoughts? Can you recognise the immense power within you to reshape those thoughts?

I must be honest, this transformation is not an easy process. It demands your willingness to relinquish the victim’s role and alter your mental narrative regarding the problem at hand. It requires summoning your inner strength and resilience, facing whatever challenges life presents. Therefore, hardships often propel us to find our way out; otherwise, we risk perishing alongside our problems. It is our resistance to what is happening that fuels our suffering, inflaming the pain already present in our lives.

Yet, isn’t it tempting to imagine a life without such resistance? Wouldn’t it be easier if we could tap into our inner power and accept what is unfolding? I want to assure you that acceptance does not mean passive consent. Rather, acceptance means non-resistance; an invitation to find solutions instead of being at the mercy of pain. Returning to the problem you imagined earlier, what are three actions you can take right now to lean into it and illuminate it from a different perspective? It could be as simple as altering your thoughts about the situation or dedicating time to journal your feelings until a brilliant solution emerges. Regardless, we must remain vigilant and trust that the hardships life bestows upon us are rarely the true problem. Instead, it is our readiness to accept and navigate them that awakens our greatest power; the power to overcome, to grow, and to find solace amidst the storms of life.

So, as you open your eyes and re-enter the world, remember this: within you lies a wellspring of strength, compassion, and wisdom. Embrace life’s challenges as opportunities for growth and transformation. Trust that you have the resilience to weather any storm. And never forget you are not alone on this journey. We are all interconnected, navigating the ebb and flow of life together, each with our unique trials and tribulations. So, let us stand united, extending empathy and understanding to one another as we journey through the beautiful messiness of being human.

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