There are a few things that I have learned in my short existence here on earth that have completely changed the way I live my life. There are rules that this Universe is governed by, and once you understand how they work on a personal level, you have more power to get the results you want. Without knowing the rules- it is like showing up for a game of soccer, and not realizing that you will actually be playing against another team.
The Universe is ruled by four fundamental forces of nature, but we are going to just focus on one today- there is a physical force pushing against you, a resistance that we all know as gravity. Emotionally this shows up as fear– but there is also a spiritual force that is pulling you to expand and grow. The two MUST work in tandem for you to grow. It’s kind of like our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Our sympathetic nervous system ramps up when it perceives a threat or danger. It wants to preserve us. Our parasympathetic system is in charge of regulating our systems back down to homeostasis once the threat has passed. With rampant anxiety we tend to vilify our sympathetic system as the enemy because it seems to be elevated TOO often. Well, we need that tug and pull- it is what is keeping our heart pumping and our blood running, we just need to better understand the rules that these systems work by and HOW we can better work with them too!
Dr. Peck has stated that the resistance to emotional pain is the root of all mental suffering. The more I let that statement roll around in my brain the more I see how true it really is. In fact as I have dived deeper into this subject, I have also seen this concept as an equation:
Pain X Resistance = Suffering
Now before I go any further, I just want to clarify a few things:
Pain is the experience our body is having from a situation.
Suffering is the thoughts and feelings we are having around the pain.
Resistance then, is using our past experience and knowledge to push against or stop the experience from running through us.
Ok here we go:
As I amp up my training for my racing goals, I am constantly having to remind myself to allow the discomfort, and not resist it. It is such a natural thing to want to resist discomfort- especially pain. It is our body's way of keeping us alive! However our body responds to all pain (emotional and physical) is the same- it just wants to repel it. We do need a defense mechanism around physical pain. If we touch something hot, we need to avoid it in the future to keep ourselves safe. But what if we experience a broken heart, loss, or disappointment? Sometimes boundaries are needed for safety, but deciding to repel all experiences that could possibly cause heart break, loss, or disappointment is not healthy, and stunts our growth.
Accepting that we will all experience emotional pain as a part of our mortal experience will paradoxically help it to pass through us, and not get stuck, making you feel stuck!
When I run, if I allow the pain, even just for short moments, I am reminding myself that this is where I’m growing. If I just push up to the point of discomfort and stop, not only will I never push past my current threshold, but I can actually see my progress slowing going backwards. If there isn’t a challenge, then what’s the point? What am I trying to accomplish here?
In relationships this can show up differently, because it becomes more complicated and multifaceted, but trying to have a marriage, or a family/friend relationship completely void of disappointment, hurt, and even loss of trust from time to time is unreasonable.
Once it has pushed past misunderstanding and into abuse, or neglect that’s a different topic for a different time, and we cannot let that continue, but when it’s on a more reasonable level, we need to allow each other to be human. Of course there will be mistakes. When pain shows up, it is really just showing us where we need to grow. And when you feel like everything is falling apart- take heart- because sometimes it needs to, so you can put it back together correctly- in a way that promotes love and trust, communication and respect.
Let’s personalize this concept:
Think of a time when you refused to let something go that hurt you…
What was the result of that? Who suffered the most?
Did you actually get the outcome that you wanted?
Now think of a time when you worked through that pain…
Did you let yourself feel that hurt?
Did you allow for a measure of compassion for yourself?
Were you able to see what you had learned from the painful experience?
Were you able to thank it for teaching you where change was needed?
Did you release it?
To end, I wanted to illuminate what Dr. Peck has said around the fear of change and how courage is key:
In the book The Road Less Traveled, Dr. Peck stated:
"The act of love (living)- extending oneself- requires moving out against the (resistance) engendered by fear. When we extend ourselves, our self enters new and unfamiliar territory. We do things we are not accustomed to doing. We change. This can be frightening, but fear is inescapable if you are in fact to change. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the making of action in spite of fear. The moving out against the resistance engendered by fear into the unknown and into the future. Spiritual growth and love always requires courage and involves risk.
If someone is determined not to risk pain, then they must do without the very things that make life alive, meaningful and significant. Move out and grow in any dimension and pain as well as joy will be your reward. A full life will be full of pain. But the only alternative is not to live fully or not to live at all."
Friends, I am praying every day for more courage. No one is immune to the fear and resistance that shows up when our spirit/soul is being called to expand and grow. Don’t stunt that feeling- see how you can show up with just a little more courage today. Accept pain when it shows up to teach you and let yourself savor the joy in the miracles that you will see when you decide to really live!