I can be in pain, but I don’t have to suffer.
If you know me at all, you know that I read a lot of books and I just finished Inner Engineering, A Yogi’s Guide to Joy by Sadhguru. He tells a story of himself as a young man traveling by motorcycle in India, when he has an accident that cuts deeply into his calf muscle. He gets himself to a doctor who tells him that he has to go somewhere else because he doesn’t have anesthesia. Sadhguru says he doesn’t have time to go elsewhere, and that it needs to be taken care of. So the doctor reluctantly agrees and performs the procedure while sweating and worrying the entire time. Sadhguru converses calmly with him throughout the procedure, and at the end, the doctor asks, Didn’t you feel any pain at all? Sadhguru says, Of course, excruciating pain. But just because I am in pain, doesn’t mean I have to suffer.
After I read that story, I kept that teaching alive in my mind: I can be in pain, but I don’t have to suffer.
On the Fourth of July, my family went to the beach to watch the fireworks. As we set up our spot, the girls ran down to a playground, so I went with them. As I walked on the beach, I noticed that my knee was hurting, and I was limping trying not to feel it too much, and I remembered Sadhguru’s story. So I let the knee pain be there, but it wasn’t the centerpiece of the story of that moment like it had been just seconds ago. I noticed myself walking without a limp and almost jogging. The pain still in the background, but further and further back.
By the time I got to the playground, I had totally forgotten about it. We began playing frisbee and all of a sudden I was running to catch a frisbee on the beach. This game turned into a race where I found myself not just playing a game, but sprinting along the beach. Now I was actually doing sprints on the beach, laughing and having the very best time with my daughters. I was experiencing joy, not suffering. It was such a powerful lesson.
I can be tired, achy, angry, fearful, in pain and I don’t have to suffer through it. Whether it was standing in the heat watching the parade, trying on a pair of jeans and realizing they don’t fit, or during a painful neck ache, this mantra really interrupted my inner monologue about it.
Try it out. When you are complaining, hating, worrying or waiting, notice what you are feeling and say to yourself: I can be in pain, but I don’t have to suffer. And just contemplate that. Play with it. See what happens. Notice when it works and when it doesn’t. Share it with your family and friends. Discuss what you experience.
When we wake up and realize we are causing our own suffering 100% of the time, we can exercise our power to stop doing that, and with that one practice anyone’s life would dramatically improve.
Imagine. How would your life change if you learned to just stop it? Think about it.