What pain can teach us about not suffering

quote about surrender

In Buddhism, suffering refers to a dissatisfaction with what is, or conversely, an attachment to what isn’t. And, to release ourselves from suffering, we must recognize that life is impermanent, and relinquish attachment to a certain want or result.

In Christianity, the concept of faith plays out by relinquishing control to God.  Putting faith in the fact that God has a plan.

When it comes to physical pain, we often make matters worse by creating additional suffering. The Buddha compares being afflicted with bodily pain to being struck by an arrow. Adding mental pain (aversion, displeasure, depression, or self-pity) to physical pain is like being hit by a second arrow. The wise person stops with the first arrow.

There are tales of Buddhist monks with cancer or other chronic illness that are in pain and yet, they experience serene peace.

I tried to test this concept of ‘letting go’ on myself when I was sick recently.  There were moments when my head hurt really bad, or I was upset about being sick, or angry with my body and the hand ‘I’ve been dealt,” and I tried to melt into the emotion and sensation, become one with it instead of fight it.  However brief, the pain lessened as I gave up the struggle with what was actually happening physically.

It’s the emotional equivalent of unclenching your fists.  Try this: physically stiffen everything in your body, make fists, squish your face, hold your breath.  This is struggle.  Now, let go.  This is surrender.  Which one feels better, more at peace?

Surrender can take many forms: prayer, meditation, emotional release, expression, forgiveness, and acceptance. Sometimes just saying the words out loud, “I surrender,” can help.

All pain can teach us something, we just have to be willing to try and find the opportunity for faith and healing instead of firing another arrow at ourselves.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Photo: Pinterest

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Walk the plank of life with acceptance

walking the plank

It’s funny how life has a way of smacking you upside the head with messages if you’re awake to them.  I shared a quote on Google+ that I saw recently, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.” ~Thomas Jefferson. But then someone responded to my post with this and I loved it even more, “When you reach the end of your rope, Let Go.” ~Buddhism.

Acceptance can be tricky.  Easy to say, often hard to do. The catch-22 is that the one thing that is hardest for us to accept, will set us free when we do. Some people struggle with accepting divorce, others with loss, and others have a hard time accepting that their life just didn’t turn out like they thought it would, and it’s the struggle itself that causes much our suffering. For me, it’s managing a chronic illness. Continue reading

“I surrender with gratitude” is my sankalpa

surrender ishvara pranidhana

In a recent post, I explained what a ‘Sankalpa‘ is and how it differs from a resolution.  Where a resolution tends to be more about restraint and sacrifice like giving something up for Lent, a Sankalpa is an intention or will.

Control is a big issue for me, particularly when it comes to the creation of what my ego considers a ‘safe environment.’  I spent a long time creating a bubble for myself in an effort to shield myself from pain, but let’s face it that takes a LOT of work, and pain exists regardless of how well we pad our mental and physical walls.   Resistance is hard, surrender is easier, and I know this.  I see it in students, I experience in my asana practice, so I’m going to carry it with me each and everyday, and see the opportunity to surrender to the moment — to what is — at every turn. This doesn’t mean I’ll be taking a defeatist attitude, but rather, accept what is.  Accept that over which I have no power and more importantly bring awareness to what I do and don’t truly have any control over.  Sounds a little like living the Serenity Prayer, only I’m going to add a line or two.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

The courage to change the things that I can

The wisdom to know the difference

I will surrender with gratitude

And I will show love wherever I go

What’s your Sankalpa?

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

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(Photo: Pinterest)

Effort vs.surrender: yoga’s tug-of-war

One of the most difficult parts of any yoga practice is cultivating the ability to find the perfect balance of effort and surrender.   I always loved when my teacher would remind us to, “go to your edge, but not past it.”   Aaaah, the edge.  That point in your practice where any less wouldn’t be enough, but any more would be too much.  Getting to the edge requires some effort — effort in body and focus.  Resisting the urge to go beyond requires surrender and faith — surrender to what your practice IS here and now.

If there’s one thing that yoga has taught me more than anything is acceptance of exactly where I am in my practice at any given moment; to let go of ego; and embrace the process. The next time you go to your mat, try to find your edge.  Go to it, and surrender to the moment. 

“If you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Photo credit: Pinterest