"A calm sea does not make a skilled sailor" - African Proverb
Too often we have the notion that life should be easy, free from difficulty and suffering. As comfort seeking creatures we are constantly looking for ways to make life easier. We end up doing all sorts of things for all the wrong reasons - join a religion thinking that suddenly life will be free from pain. We end relationships because we can't deal with another person/group. We sign up for a certain wellness program thinking that "now, my life will be easier and less stressful and I will finally be healthy!" This is an immature mindset and it's impractical.
When we go into a relationship with the incorrect intention it's no wonder we are disappointed that it didn't work out. When we enter a program with the wrong motivation, it's no mystery that, once again, it "just wasn't for me".
Our goal of entering any program, or relationship should be that of becoming a better person, a more well rounded and balanced person. It should be our intention to become more skillful at dealing with difficultly and using it to our advantage and then learn to to help others. We should only hope to gain new tools and support to help us along our journey. I know that in my religion of choice, just because I'm a "believer" doesn't mean that bad things aren't going to happen to me. I know that difficulties will continue to come my way. I also know that my path to wellness doesn't have a secret passageway that leads me around all the obstacles in life and lets me avoid potential stress or hardships. What I do gain from my religion and my wellness path include:
- The list goes on.
Can you embrace difficulty in order to get free from it? Can you thank the pain in your life for helping you to grow as a person? Can you understand that if you are always looking for a safe harbor and calm seas you will never become a skilled sailor in life?
"Pain is mandatory, suffering is optional." - My former drill instructors favorite quote...
I'm not suggesting we go around looking for trouble or difficulty, it finds us easy enough. And I'm not suggesting that life should always be hard or sad. Quite the opposite. As the above quote suggests, pain is part of the human experience and we ALL share this experience. What I am suggesting is that how your respond to difficulty is what matters in life. We have a choice, in each moment, in each experience to chose to view things as negative, or to view situations as positive. Your choice determines your reality. Pain, loss, and our past are all just part of life and who we are, yet we can become more skillful at letting go of the unnecessary suffering and drama that we bring to these experiences.
Here is what Jim Morrison, American poet and rock legend, had to say about pain in life and love:
“People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that's bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they're afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they're wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It's all in how you carry it. That's what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you're letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.”
One of the things I LOVE about physical training is it affords me an opportunity to cultivate these exact skills and responses that we should have during challenges in life. How do you responds during a hard interval session? Do you stress out during the work phase? If all you can think about during the work interval is getting it over with or wanting it to end as soon as possible, you are missing a golden opportunity. In the weight room, on the trail, on the yoga mat and on the meditation cushion we can forge the mental and physical capacity to better deal with difficulty - it's a choice.