Pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice if you can manage to control your mind.
In today’s world, life challenges and therefore pain are a reality for all of us. Sometimes the challenges are small and sometimes they are monumental, but how we deal with them can affect how much we suffer, and working on our mind is the answer to reducing our suffering.
According to world renowned pioneers of yoga such as Ana Forrest and Michael de Manincor of The Yoga Foundation, pain may be inevitable, but suffering is optional. The solution is physical, emotional and psychological healing.
Here are a few practical things they recommended to reduce suffering in your life:
As well as its physical benefits, many studies suggest the powerful benefits of yoga as a form of therapy for sufferers of anxiety, depression, insomnia and even PTSD, when combined with traditional methods of psychological treatment. What’s more, yoga can have a positive impact on your outlook on life and decision making.
Jo Doyle, a yoga instructor at Soul Fusion, embarked on the road to healing from chronic back pain through yoga, which allowed her to realise that suffering is an option in life: “Pain is inevitable in life, but when you are present with that beautiful inhale (during yoga) and present with fully letting go, then your suffering is an option because you become more present and you become who you are,” she said.
Michael de Manincor, co-founder of The Yoga Foundation and former President of Yoga Australia, also believes “both pain and suffering have choices built in. What choices do we make that lead us down a path that end up in pain and/or suffering? What choices do we make that can take us out of that? And I think that’s where the yoga teachings and the wisdom of yoga from many other cultures come in, because it guides us to make better choices.”
According to Dominica Dorning, a Sydney clinical psychologist and yoga therapist at STARTTS (www.startts.org.au/), awareness is the first step in dealing with pain: “Depending on the way we’ve grown up, a lot of us don’t have an awareness to even recognise when we’re feeling discomfort or why it’s there, or how to deal with it, but growing your self awareness is really important because it’s only then you can take a step to make a change.”
Ana Forrest, international yogini extraordinaire and the founder of Forrest Yoga, also stressed the importance of recognising the source of our pain, and “reaching out to other people with different knowledge (such as healers)” when no answers can be found. Turning to her past traumatic experiences, Forrest spoke of “learning to track internally when this pain is connected to other things. Maybe something is being triggered from the past but it’s in existence right now,” so there is a need to “work on more than one level because our life experiences have more than one root, so begin to address and do something about each one.”
The Power of the Mind
Rather than having negative thoughts about your pain, realise that all it takes is a change of perspective or a simple realisation that many things in life are a choice.
According to Forrest, “Recognise that the story has only some grains of truth and recognise every day that the truth is so much bigger than what you’re perceiving, then it becomes really fun to widen your perception. Receive more of the truth about yourself, about your condition, about the entire cosmos. And then your problem will take its appropriate place in the cosmos. It’s something that needs to be dealt with, but it’s not as overwhelming as it felt a moment ago when your perspective had narrowed and you forgot the rest of existence.”
Self compassion is crucial as it teaches us to deal with the pressure and expectations that we place on ourselves, and which we experience from our family, friends and the workplace.
Dorning says: “We try to live up to multiple expectations within our lives when really it’s okay to wake up one morning and not feel like coming to work. So I think finding some space for yourself, treating yourself in the way you would treat others and viewing your life and situation in a compassionate way is helpful.”