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Pain versus Suffering

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor Frankl

This is a biggie. If you want peace. Within. It is one of those concepts that when it was brought to my consciousness, it made such a huge difference in my life. You see, pain is inevitable. Pain can be physical or emotional. It is a part of life. We hurt ourselves physically, or somebody close to us dies, relationships break down, people are unkind. We hurt. And it is unavoidable. It is part of life. So there is no point in trying to escape it. Suffering, however, is optional. Suffering is the story that we tell ourselves on top of what is happening. It is the response, our internal response, to our pain. What will they think? They suck. I suck. Was I good enough? Just my luck. I am a failure. And so on. The pain, the initial pain, is now expanding, rapidly, by us adding that internal dialogue, the suffering. We are adding this suffering ourselves. And as a result we are hurting so much more. The suffering happens so quickly though. We feel pain and in a split second it is accompanied by our thoughts, that add the suffering. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk, teaches us that if we release our suffering, we become free. That we are then able to be there for ourselves and for others. That we suffer because we are not present in the moment.

Here are a few things that can help when you feel pain, to help avoid suffering:

  • Breathe: Begin to pay attention to your breath.

  • Meditate: It helps to get centered and stay in the now.

  • Walk it out: Don’t think. Just be. Become totally immersed in the moment.

  • Lend a helping hand: If you are in pain, it helps to focus on somebody else who may need you. Research actually shows that showing up and acting on compassion is a very powerful tool to get out of our own suffering.

So no, I will not and do not want to avoid pain, as I see that as part of what is meaningful in life. Pain informs me of what is truly valuable to me. Pain informs me of the beauty of life. Pain can feel very hard but on the other side of pain, is joy. And the pendulum will move between the two, so I would not want to be without either. However, I really do want to let go of my suffering.

Lots of love,


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