If you’ve lived in the world for a bit you know that life is full of suffering. I’m not saying that life is miserable. On the contrary, life is amazing. That said, as most know, life doesn’t always turn out as one expects. Hence pain and suffering. So what’s a person to do? Well first it’s important not to expect that the ride is going to be pleasant at all times or that something is wrong at the onset of unpleasant feelings. Once you’ve got that down, practice meditation and learn that although you can’t change how things come down the pipe, at least you can change your reactions to those things less than desirable.
Christina Feldman pens this recent Yoga Journal post on how meditation teaches us that suffering is optional. According to Feldman, as we age and grow it’s unrealistic for us to expect that at some point we will not experience pain. Through attention and acceptance, however, the fear and negativity associated with pain can be released. Meditation provides the vehicle of transformation.
Aging, sickness, and moments of pain are intrinsic to the life of all of our bodies. Bodily pain comes in many guises—some of it is chronic, some temporary, some unavoidable. Our first response is to resist it. We have numerous strategies to ward pain off, to avoid it, or to camouflage it with distraction. Aversion, terror, and agitation interweave themselves with the experiences in our bodies and we are easily lost in dread and despair. Our bodies may even be seen as enemies, sabotaging our well-being and happiness. When we are enmeshed in this knot of fear and resistance, there is little space for healing or compassionate attention to occur.
And yet we can learn to touch discomfort and pain with an attention that is loving, accepting, and spacious. We can learn to befriend our bodies, even in the moments when they are most distressed and uncomfortable. We can discover that it is possible to release aversion and fear. With caring and curious attention, we can see that there is a difference between the sensations occurring in our bodies and the thoughts and emotions that react to those sensations. Instead of running from pain, we can bring a curious and caring attention into the heart of pain. In doing so, we discover that our well-being and inner balance are no longer sabotaged. Surrendering our resistance, we find that pain is no longer intimidating or unbearable.
Read more from Feldman on using meditation to transform your pain and suffering here.