I recently reviewed the Book; The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. In it, Ryan posits that the obstacle we are avoiding is often a door way towards transformation. Recently, in my life coach training program, the facilitator said a phrase, “Turn into your pain,” this is a Toltec philosophy which tells us the same message that Ryan gives us in his text. In Ryan’s work, I focused on the obstacle as the thing I am avoiding due to fear, laziness and procrastination. But, hearing my facilitator say “turn into the pain,” I recognize that pain can be treated the same way.
When we experience physical pain, it is often the body trying to tell us to pay attention. As I sit here on my bed, writing this post, my back is aching. Sitting on my bed does not give me enough support and begin straining to accommodate the lack of support. It is the pain that arrives into my awareness to change my position.
Emotional pain is the same, yet often we find ourselves running from emotional pain rather than paying attention to what it is trying to tell us and adjusting our position. Just as physical pain is the body’s way of telling us to pay attention to our physical position, emotional pain seeks to teach us something about our mindset.
Of course, no one likes pain. Yet emotional pain seeks to teach us something about our perspective. The lesson could be about attachment, the lesson could be about ego, the lesson could be about letting go or adjusting our sails. What the pain holds is individual to each of us.
What I have learned is; no matter the pain, emotional or physical, there is a lesson. I have said before that life gives us two options; lessons and blessings. Pain offers us a lesson, we can use the pain as a catalyst to look inward and adjust. Unfortunately, ignoring emotional pain does not work. When we ignore the pain, the body stores it until we come back to it and deal with the emotions we are avoiding. Pain offers us an opportunity to look inside and figure out what we are still holding on to, when it is time to let go… this could be a person, a place, a material possession or a belief.
Of course, some pain, like grieving the loss of a loved one is inevitable and understandable. This is not the pain I am referring to, although even grief offers a lesson to look at emotional attachments and letting go. Death is only a loss to those of us left behind, because with death comes birth and the soul does not feel pain.
The kind of pain I am referring to is the emotional pain we often try to avoid and stuff away. I am also talking about the tiny emotional annoyances that signal to us the ego is in control. When we worry about what someone else is thinking or doing, this is an invitation to let go of control and worry. When we are bothered by the actions of others, this is a good indication that we have triggered something inside ourselves that needs to be investigated.
Pain is uncomfortable, but with a little change of perspective, like any other obstacle, it to can be thought of as a doorway. When we make a conscious decision to turn towards the pain and look inside, we may very well just find there is a lesson for us. When we take notice and pay attention to what the body is telling us, it will lead us to heal ourselves.
The next time you feel the slightest twinge of emotional pain, whatever it is, I invite you to look inside the pain and explore the lesson it offers, you may just be surprised at what you find.