You’re on the verge of breaking every day and it’s not healthy. Even worse, you’re defending it. You’re defending your own mental health and stability – do you think it’s OK to live the way you are living right now? Do you want to live like that?
Her words hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t want to believe the situation I was in was that bad. I didn’t want to believe that I was defending my own mental health and stability. I didn’t want to believe I was defending the emotional abuse. Over the last several months, I had spent so much time and energy convincing myself that this wasn’t the case.
When we find ourselves in difficult situations we can’t reconcile, the truth is difficult to tell. We’d rather believe “it’s not that bad” or “it didn’t happen like that” than face the temporary pain of the truth.
Lying comes from fear and we lie to keep the pain at bay.
We’ve all been there, finding reasons to mask our pain, to lie about the reality of what we’re facing. The pain could be a friend’s disappointment, a spouse’s rage or abuse, discrimination at our work place or the declining state of our health on any level – mental, physical or emotional. In our minds, we believe if we push the pain down, if we hide from the truth, the pain will go away. We believe the absence of pain is happiness and our mistaken belief tells us that if pain goes away we will be happy. But the truth of suffering, or what the Buddhists call duhkha satya, is that the pain never goes away. In fact, Buddha’s First Noble Truth reminds us that life is full of suffering. While suffering is an absolute and inescapable reality that transcends all human experience, the act of suffering in our suffering is optional.
When we struggle to escape the pain, we allow our pain to become our prison. When we have the capacity to tell ourselves the emotional truth of any situation, we make our pain the path forward.
As I was navigating the difficult feelings surrounding my pain, still convincing myself my situation wasn’t that bad, I was brought to my knees on my yoga mat.
I did my best to notice
When the call came down the line
Up to the platform of surrender
I was brought but I was kind
And sometimes I get nervous
When I see an open door
Close your eyes, clear your heart
Cut the cord
Mid flow in a Sun B on Saturday morning, the lyrics cut right through me, calling up the words of a dear friend, Do you want to live like that? As the tears welled up, I convinced myself I was OK. I reminded myself to just breathe and the pain would go away. Every asana became a distraction, a way to push past the pain.
And I’m on my knees
Looking for the answer…
At that point, the pain was too much. In fighting against my pain, I felt entirely consumed by it. I lost the connection of my breath and found myself fumbling through postures until I just surrendered. Crawling into child’s pose, I let myself cry.
Coming to terms with our pain requires us to walk with our pain. As I held the hand of my pain for the rest of class, crying my way through the asanas and totally losing my shit in the surrender postures, I came to face my truth. I knew, even though what would be required of me was hard and uncomfortable, that it was the right choice.
There’s going to be times in your life, where what you are up against is so painful that you’ll convince yourself it isn’t so bad. There’s going to be difficult moments in your life where instead of confronting the pain, you’ll find ways to avoid the hard truths. If in these moments of denial, rather than pushing away the pain, rather than lying to yourself – if in your moments of coming to hard truths, rather than getting bitter or angry or frustrated – if in these moments you can simply remember that it’s pushing through the pain, not against it, that will be the very thing that paves the path forward, it will be your struggle that paves your story, rather than being the story.
The struggle is necessary. It’s the struggling that’s optional. And it’s having constraints, resistance, obstacles – it’s having pain and suffering – it’s having difficult times that allow us to find and tap into the thing that’s going to get us to our next best step or to where we want to be because it’s going to push us beyond what we think we can handle or do or achieve. Sometimes that push will come in the form of tough love from a friend. Sometimes it will be a yoga class that brings you to your knees. Sometimes it will be both. In those moments when we find ourselves face to face with the hard truths, we must enter the place of our pain knowing we’re going to face difficulty, knowing we will have to stand up for ourselves, knowing we will have to take risks and leaps of faith and to trust harder than we ever have before. And in these moments, it will be the hard truths that liberate us from our suffering and set us free.