Alison Deutsch Coaching Reimagine Midlife. Take the Next Step.
One teacher that has profoundly influenced my personal journey is Sylvia Boorstein. It was through her writings I was introduced to the Buddhist teaching: Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.
The idea that suffering is not an absolute given, an inevitable outcome of difficult, painful times was a novel one to me. Having a choice in how to respond to the inevitable ups and downs of life is incredibly empowering.
In her book, “Happiness is an Inside Job” Sylvia writes: “Suffering is what happens when we struggle with whatever our life experience is rather than accepting and opening to our experience with a wise and compassionate response.”
For me, accepting experiences with self-compassion and wisdom now means allowing myself to lean into the pain and discomfort, truly and deeply feeling it, mining it for the lessons, and opening up to new opportunities that ultimately emerge.
I’ve since adopted her simple yet powerful mantra whenever life throws me that inevitable curve ball:
“Sweetheart you are in pain, relax, take a breath, let’s pay attention to what is happening. Then we will figure out what to do.”
Addressing ourselves as “sweetheart” we offer ourselves the same kindness, love, and compassion we would to any dear friend or loved one going through a difficult time. Why should we treat ourselves any differently?
Acknowledging yes, we are truly in pain and validating the discomfort we are experiencing is a completely human and normal emotion is an important, often overlooked step. Over the years I’ve since learned all the numbing, ignoring and pretending isn’t helpful. What’s needed is acceptance.
Relaxing by taking a breath offers a mindful pause, an opportunity to create a space to separate from our emotions and recognize that we don’t have to act on all the thoughts that are being triggered by the multitude of emotions understandably swirling in times of pain.
Reminding ourselves to pay attention to what is happening in the here and now allows us to break from any ruminations this event might have triggered in us based on unresolved past events. Being in the present also stops us from catastrophizing – forecasting the absolute worse case scenarios into the future. It gives us the chance to remind myself, “I’m OK”. Right here and right now – I am Okay.
And finally, saying to ourselves, “we WILL figure out what to do” reinforces the idea we have confidence in ourselves that no matter what life throws at us, we can always figure out what's the next thing we need to do. That assurance moves us away from the fear and uncertainty created by an unexpected and often time unwanted event into the action needed to move through it.
Pain IS inevitable in our lives and yet knowing suffering IS optional provides conscious choice. I've found that having faith in myself and some higher power, trusting in myself and in the process, and patiently riding out the storm with a deep knowing that this too shall pass minimizes the fear and lessens the struggle brought about by the many painful and unexpected events that's a natural part of our life's journey.
I'm curious what personal mantra have you found to be helpful when navigating difficult situations?
Based on her unique life experiences, and certifications in the science of positive psychology and the art of life coaching, Alison offers practical wisdom that helps women navigate midlife transitions with clarity and confidence. www.alisondeutsch.com