Many of us found our way into yoga to create more ease in our lives. While it may not be a panacea, yoga does ease muscle tension, quiet the mind for a while, and address the suffering caused from stiffness. There is a quote from the Dalai Lama that says, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” So how exactly do we ‘opt out’ of the suffering part of this human experience? The short answer is… we don’t. We may, however, limit the time and energy spent suffering. Yes, we need the struggle to move beyond the places where we get stuck. As the author and public speaker Brene Brown says, “we are hard wired to struggle”. But suffering? Trust me, I have tried many ways to avoid pain and suffering only to circle back around and realize that facing it head-on is the best practice.
“The nature of yoga is to shine the light of awareness into the darkest corners of the body” – Jason Crandell
Merriam Webster defines these as: SUFFER: to submit to or be forced to endure (suffer martyrdom): to feel keenly : labor under (suffer thirst): undergo or experience. We can compare this to STRUGGLE: to make strenuous or violent efforts in the face of difficulties or opposition (struggling with the problem): to proceed with difficulty or with great effort. Maybe semantics, but food for thought.
While away from home on vacation, I was fortunate to have time spent in a new environment. Beautiful and different surroundings for sure! What I noticed was that the new routines and the lack of a rigid schedule helped to ease struggle and suffering without any effort on my part. The need to problem solve and organize seemed to dissipate. My perspective changed and the planner, critic, analyzer, and score-keeper in my mind had a vacation too. Time for pause and reflection along with yoga in the natural elements made an impact in my body, mind, and soul. From this angle, suffering does seem optional.
Mindfulness expert Melli O’Brien suggests pausing to reflect on these questions to check in with yourself:
- Am I making time for the things that really matter?
- What, if anything, is keeping me up at night?
- Am I living in a way that feels truly connected to my values?
- What conversations have I been putting off that really are important?
- What decisions need to be made that have not been made?
- Am I being the person that I want to be?
- What is something that is consistently on my mind that needs to be addressed?
The invitation for you – is to take a vacation from yourself often, even if you can’t get away from your schedule or routines. Shifting perspective and releasing our perpetual thinking mind to something that creates ease is a great place to start. It seems a valuable inquiry to consider how we allow or create our own suffering. Liken this to the hypothetical bear in the woods chasing us… once we stop running and turn around to face it directly, it may be nothing that scary at all.
The Gentle Voice – John O’Donohue (Thank you Lark for sharing this one!)
When you take the time to draw on your listening-imagination,
you will begin to hear this gentle voice at the heart of your life.
It is deeper and surer than all the other voices of disappointment,
unease, self-criticism and bleakness. All holiness is about
learning to hear the voice of your own soul. It is always there
and the more deeply you learn to listen, the greater surprises
and discoveries that will unfold.
To enter into the gentleness of your own soul changes the tone
and quality of your life. Your life is no longer consumed by
hunger for the next event, experience or achievement.
You gain a new respect for yourself and others. You begin to see
through the enchanting veils of illusion that you had taken for
reality. You no longer squander yourself on things and situations
that deplete your essence. You know now that your true source
is not outside you.
Your soul is your true source,
and a new energy and passion
awakens within you.