Why Pain is Good

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I’m not a masochist, but I want to challenge the idea that pain is something to be avoided.

In this world, we are told that feeling pain is bad and feeling happy is good. And when I’m teaching yoga, I often tell students to avoid pain in their bodies, as this is our body’s way of telling us that something is going wrong. And I do think, as much as possible, that physical pain should be avoided. Emotional pain, on the other hand, is something to dive into head first; avoiding emotional pain leads to all sorts of discontent and dishonesty (mostly with ourselves).

Emotional pain is an essential part of life. It allows us to see the light and shade of life, and cliched as it sounds, pain is where the growth happens. By avoiding it, we miss out on the realisation of our strength and the understanding of our power.

That’s not to say it’s easy – allowing ourselves to feel pain is one of the hardest things we can do. And we are bombarded by a plethora of ways to avoid it; advertisers have made an art of offering solutions to avoid pain, and technological advances have allowed us to have on-demand distractions which again, take us away from being in that difficult place.

Sometimes these distractions are useful, but not in the long term. When the pain is fresh it can be too much to handle, and sometimes the distraction allows us to keep going, to do the daily things we need to do to survive without breaking and shattering completely. But eventually we need to find some space away from the consumption (shopping, scrolling, over-scheduling) and find a way to feel our feelings.

Allowing ourselves to sit with our pain (much like allowing ourselves to sit with our fear), can have a deep and profound impact on how we go through life, how we show up for other people, how we feel about ourselves and how we approach certain situations (like risk). The first time is the hardest, but it gets easier each time. And while I don’t think any of us would voluntarily put ourselves in a position where life is painful, when these situations occur, here’s what I do:

 

Step 1 – distraction. I binge on Netflix, trashy books, social media, and eat food/drink that I might usually avoid, until I get to a place of acceptance with what’s going on.

Step 2 – stillness/quiet time/meditation. I try to allow the feelings to surface and allow space for tears, rage and/or whatever else comes up.

Step 3 – talking or writing. Both help me to get to the root of the issue, and to understand what’s happening. Sometimes having a sounding board (whether a friend or a blank page) can put things into perspective.

Step 4 – getting into my body. Exercise, massage, reiki, craniosacral therapy, acupuncture, etc. I move my body and get outside help (via trusted practitioners). My body and heart know what I need, way more than my mind. Keeping in touch with the physical signals they send helps me to avoid spiralling into negative thought patterns.

Step 5 – reflection/more quiet time. Once again, I try to allow the feelings to be there. More tears/anger/etc.

Step 6 – action. I start to make changes based on what I’ve learned, whether that’s quitting a job, changing friendships, changing personal habits. This step is difficult, but important to me because it shifts me from feeling like a victim to giving me a sense of autonomy over my life. The changes may be small to start, but over time they can make a big impact.

 

This isn’t always a fast or easy process (in fact it’s usually quite slow), and sometimes the steps are not linear (one step forward, two steps back and then a sashay to the side). But this process of listening, feeling and action has been useful to help me feel empowered in my life, even when the pain comes from an external source (like loss or tragedy). It’s also helped me to understand that pain doesn’t need to be avoided; looking back, I always realise that it is times of pain that have made the biggest positive impacts on where I am today. Those times have taught me about my strength, my resilience, my ability to get to the other side unscathed (but not unchanged), and have really made me who I am today. I no longer fear pain. Although I can’t say that I enjoy it, I appreciate what it can do and where it can lead.

For more on dealing with pain in life, I recommend reading Pema Chodron’s book “When Things Fall Apart”. She explains these concepts clearly and eloquently and offers simplicity to some of life’s complicated stuff.

We don’t always choose what happens in life, but we can always choose how to react.

What are your strategies for dealing with pain? I’d love to hear more – leave me a message in the comments below.

Photo by Ali Schilling Photography.

Giving and Receiving Abundance

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“It’s just like a magic penny. Hold it tight and you won’t have any. Lend it spend it and you’ll have so many, they’ll roll all over the floor!”

I’ve frequently been reminded of these lyrics in recent days.

At the beginning of this year, I was listening a lot to The Lively Show podcast, and it’s been delving deeper and deeper into the teachings of Abraham / Jerry and Esther Hicks, most notably, The Law of Attraction. I’d read about this concept before, but it always felt a bit silly to me – how can you think something into being? By focusing on your desire, you will be able to manifest and bring it to life?

But I had it all wrong. Jess Lively goes into much more detail on her podcast (which I would highly recommend checking out), but my summary is this: it’s not about wanting something so badly that you create it, it’s more about getting yourself into a state of alignment with that desire – finding that state or desire within yourself, which in turn attracts more of that state/desire to you.

This year I wanted to cultivate a sense of abundance in my life – not only financially, but also socially, culturally, and professionally. And I wanted to be able to share my abundance somehow in the world. I will admit, I have never been particularly involved with charitable or political organisations (unless posting about them on facebook counts as involved) – I have donated here and there to certain charities, but never with any kind of commitment. I try to spend my money consciously (with socially responsible organisations) as much as possible, and I go out of my way to help people when I see a need, but I don’t volunteer my time on a regular basis, and I very rarely give out money to homeless people on the street.

I still have a far way to go, but starting small and slow can eventually lead to an avalanche (I’m a big believer in the “one small change leading to a revolution” kind of thing). In an effort to both create more abundance and to share my abundance, I’ve been doing two things:

  • Telling myself that I am abundant (and listing the ways) most days. This is akin to a gratitude list, but just looking at it through the lens of abundance. I was really inspired by Che Dyer’s post about abundance affirmations.
  • Giving back and giving things out. I’m giving my change (and not just my pennies, but my pounds) to people asking, and making a concerted effort to donate time and money more regularly. In addition, I’ve been more willingly generous with friends and family (but ensuring I know my boundaries so I don’t end up resentful).

The result of these two small but regular actions is that I feel more abundant, more fulfilled and more at peace. Sometimes to have more, we need to give more, and to give more we need to feel like we have more. Taking time to notice what we have and taking time to give it away (which, for me, surprisingly, has had minimal impact on my time or standard of living), has made a huge difference in my mindset, which I’m sure has resulted in a more full and fulfilling life.

And although I’m not rolling on the floor in pennies (or pounds), I feel incredibly abundant. And that’s really what it’s all about.

I’d love to hear how you give back and what you do to bring abundance into your life. Let me know in the comments or find me on Instagram @laurenewilkie

Yoga for Travellers

Tight hips and sore back after sitting for too long? Whether you’ve been too long in a car, on a plane or at a desk, this short yoga sequence will help unlock the spine and hips to have you feeling back to normal quickly. Repeat the sequence on the opposite site, and finish by spending a few minutes with your legs up the wall to help with circulation (and jet-lag).

 

 

Finding Centre

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In Pilates, the centre of our bodies is often called the “powerhouse” because it’s where so much of our physical strength comes from. Whilst having a strong physical core is essential for safe and effective movement, this is also the place in the body where we find our inner strength.

In yoga, the centre of the body is known as the solar plexus chakra (manipura chakra) and this area governs our self-esteem, sense of personal power, sense of belonging, stamina, will power and ego. It’s the place the allows us to be confident and in control of our lives.

Working on developing physical strength in this area can help us feel more confident and strong, but we can also connect to our personal powerhouse of emotion and energy:-

Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly. Notice the heat radiating from your body. Watch the rise and fall of your breath. Bring the breath deep and low in the body – fill up the belly and let the belly really expand.

Feel whatever is in your body, deep at the core. Let your hands be a reminder to stay focused on feeling what is in this part of you. Start to connect with the deep-rooted power inside.

Sit with this for a few moments, a few breaths or a few minutes.

Release your hands and notice how you feel, sitting in stillness a little longer. When you’re ready, take a deep breath and continue with your day, centered and strong.

I’d love to know how this exercise makes you feel. Let me know in the comments below or use #corepowerinnerpower.