December Reflections—Pain, Suffering, and Renewal.
Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Where have we been this year and how will we move forward?
Every year in December, I spend a lot of time in reflection—as do many of you. It’s a natural reflex as we get ready to welcome a new year, a new beginning that we place so much hope into. Isn’t that an incredible thought? We place SO MUCH hope into new beginnings. It’s a beautiful thing to realize, that we’re not alone in the hoping. With that being said, we are also not alone in the pain that causes us to turn to hope for relief.
It’s no secret, 2020 has kicked a lot of our asses. Many of us are still tending to our wounds, becoming hyper-vigilant for the next ass-whooping around the corner, or taking cover from the next flowerpot on the windowsill above, expecting it to fall-down and crack us on the head yet again. 2020 has kick-started our fight-flight-freeze responses… it’s moved a lot of us into a cyclical pattern of perceiving suffering with pain. But as the Dalai Lama has said, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” And that alone is my biggest take-away from the year that has been 2020.
We will always come into contact with the sensation of pain for one reason or another and the enormous amounts of circumstances that have occurred for us collectively this year has bombarded our senses, and nervous-systems. We know that when trauma is experienced without a healthy way to process the pain we’ve taken on, it becomes stored within. When this happens time and time again, as it has this year, we get stuck in the patterns of the fight-flight-freeze response; which makes us resist; makes us guarded; it creates an emotional perception of suffering. Because our attention is stuck on the sensation or anticipation of pain.
How many of us have entered our usual hopefulness about the New Year, only to return to the expectation of “yeah okay, what’s coming next though?” …. What’s the next shit-storm on the way and what shall we name it? I know I’m not alone in that feeling! And it sucks! Yes, pain IS inevitable, but EXPECTING pain to come our way as our first response is not a healthy way for anyone to live. Anticipating pain before it’s arrived is a product of a mind that is suffering. A mind that has not fully processed and released the pain it’s already experienced. That suffering is optional.
What does it mean when we say that suffering is optional?
We may not be CHOOSING what comes our way to cause pain; we’re certainly not window shopping for pain and choosing which painful experience we’d like out of an array of carefully curated options laid out in a vibrant boutique. And it may not feel like we are CHOOSING to suffer… of course we’re not. We’re exhausted, our nervous systems are on overdrive, and our minds are stuck in anticipation. But where the option of suffering come into play is within our choice to remain in an emotionally and mentally exhausted state; unable to process and release our pain, in order to naturally meet the next obstacle with renewed energy and readiness to take on the challenge from a mind space that is primed to accept circumstances and move toward solutions. With renewal. And with hope.
So, let’s choose to give ourselves the experience of renewal, yeah?
Meditation. Yes! If you know me, I prescribe meditation for all of life’s ailments. It’s the practice of creating an emotionally calm and mentally clear, and stable state. A dedicated practice won’t only have you experience moments of relaxation—it actively rewires the brain to operate from a calm, clear, and stable state; which makes life’s challenges SO. MUCH. EASIER. It takes the mind and nervous-system out of the fight-flight-freeze response. It takes suffering out of the lived experience.
It makes life easier to encounter. Easier to understand. Easier to process and release. It turns the act of getting back up after we’ve fallen into a graceful declaration of perseverance and resiliency. It fills you up with hope, not because that’s all we’ve got to cling to, but because the practice itself is a living example of hope in motion. “Yes, this hurt… but here I am. Still here. Still worthy. Still full of purpose.” The outer-world circumstances may not transform before you in an instant, but when you FEEL renewed in the presence of hardship, your mind begins to look for everything that will continue to create the sensation of hopefulness. After all, we ARE creatures of comfort.
And often times, the next closest opportunity to feel the sensation of hopefulness is only a moment away—inside your meditation. This is an experience you can give yourself every day. No matter what surrounds you and no matter what uncertainty lays hidden on the path before you.
So, as I continue toward 2021, I’ll be giving myself opportunities every day to FEEL the hope and renewal of daily life. Because I choose to take the suffering out of the pain.
Are you with me?
Wishing you peace and renewal today, and everyday,
Explore Meditation—the beginners guide to creating your at home meditation practice.
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