Accepting Pain as Purification
It's a powerful statement, to accept pain, and perhaps contradictory to our natural inclinations in life. In fact, it seems to be human nature to do all that we can to avoid pain and suffering. If we see an object moving towards us that will cause us pain, we will undoubtedly flinch away. And, in our emotional life, we seem to do this same thing, turning away from pain through avoidance, numbing or both. And yet, we are guided through the Yoga Sutras, and other Spiritual teachings, to learn to accept the pain we experience as help for our purification, if we are seeking to live a more conscious, awakened life. We can understand this as an understanding that, in accepting pain as purification. Through this process we begin to experience less suffering through our changed perspective and awareness.
Yoga Sutra 2.1
Accepting pain as help for purification, the study of spiritual books,
and surrender to the Supreme Being constitute Yoga in practice.
Beginning to understand this principle has changed my life. Through this understanding, a lifetime of pain, hurt, betrayal and illness began to have meaning for me. Over time, I found that I could look back at painful situations in my life, such as a very dysfunctional childhood home, the divorce of my parents, the murder of my brother, a divorce of my own, miscarriages, and the hard stuff of life that happens to so many of us over time. The very situations that had once tortured me, began, with study and commitment, to reveal how they were my greatest teachers and became gifts as I looked into each of them through a different lens. I began to see the alchemical processes of life, or the opportunity for it to become that. When we choose to look at challenges as gifts wrapped in sometimes unpleasant packages, we are given greater insights and continue to grow on a spiritual and emotional level. It would seem that if we are not willing to look at our challenges in this way, they will not only continue to haunt us, but as they build up, more and more unhealed hurts begin to build up and create walls of energy blocked barriers that look like bitterness, hatred, depression, anger, lethargy and disease. The beauty is, that we get to choose, one path or the other. And, if we have been going down the path of pain, at any point in time, we can turn the other way and begin to peel off the layers, tear down the walls, and reveal the beauty of truth that lies at our very center that is always waiting to shine bright.
The yoga Sutras say, specifically, that if we can begin seeing our pain as tapas or heat, it will help us to accept all of the pain that does come to us, even though the nature of the mind is to run after pleasure. We will actually be grateful if we keep in mind the purifying effects, and such acceptance makes the mind stronger. Such self discipline obviously cannot be practiced in our meditation rooms, but only in our daily lives, through our experiences and relationships with others and our self. I have heard others say, and probably have said myself, "no regrets", but honestly, there are a couple of things I would change if I could. If I had the power to have my brother still here and have prevented his death at such a young age, I would be lying to say that I wouldn't change that, I absolutely would. But, I don't have that power, there is no changing the past as it has happened. I do, however, have the power to change my thoughts about it, how it affects me, and in this way, the pain of the past is not for nothing, it is not wasted. It has become the heat and fuel for my inner peace, the foundation for my strength and perseverance, which makes this pain the sacred catalyst for my transformation. In my mind, each of these moments is now like a treasure, a jewel that I hold dear to my heart, and I have a treasure chest full of the most brilliant little stones. They feel these days a bit like they hold my medicine, my super powers and and the sweetness of the aspects of my being that they have helped develop.
As you go forward, may you fill your treasure chest with gems of wisdom, may you transform every bit of pain and suffering into a gift and a superpower, may you truly be living Yoga in practice.