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Suffering Is Optional

I’ve been working with a healer over the past two months to help me clear the suffering I hold in my body. Suffering in the sense of emotional blocks and looping behavior patterns that return again and again as I relive regrets and hidden core beliefs born from my difficult childhood.

Pain is inevitable in living. That’s where our lessons lie. Suffering, on the other hand, is a choice as I repeat memories, relive the traumas, rerun the shoulda coulda woulda’s of life. I ask myself why I hold on to the suffering of my childhood? The only answer I come up with is it hurt so bad, I have to keep it to show how much I worked to survive it.

Clearly, it’s time to let go. I pushed myself past the limits of my body and now have a compression fracture in the ball of my foot. I chose to ignore the signs and forced myself to keep going. Something had to give.

I wrote this last November and I wanted to share it again:

I have this unsettling knot in my stomach that comes and goes. It dissipates when I am focused on a task, embroiled in emotions, lost in a movie, eases up when my thoughts are busy. I don’t know what the knot represents.
Maybe it’s the pandemic times.
Maybe it’s a habit of worry.
Maybe it’s my way of reminding myself I’m not in control.
Next directions, next steps are swirling around me. Expectations lay heavy as I manipulate them into expectancies. My physical wants turn over into acceptance. My need to be in control I surrender.
And yet I am left with my knot. What is it I am wanting? What is it I am feeling? I don’t have the answers. I struggle with forming the questions.
Daily I let go. Daily I bring in gentleness and warmth that holds me wherever I am. My mind wants to know where I am going, what I am doing, what will be happening. I wish I had the answers for this demanding knot. I accept.

I’m facing my knots. I’m breathing through my blocks. I’m writing my regrets with the intent of releasing them. It’s time.

Let go of the ways you thought life would unfold;

the holding of plans or dreams or expectations –

Let it all go.

Save your strength to swim with the tide.

The choice to fight what is here before you now

will only result in struggle, fear, and desperate attempts

to flee from the very energy you long for.

Let go. Let it all go and

flow with the grace

that washes through your days

whether you receive it gently or

with all your quills raised

to defend against invaders.

Take this on faith;

the mind may never find

the explanations that it seeks,

but you will move forward nonetheless.

Let go, and the wave’s crest

will carry you to unknown shores,

beyond your wildest dreams or destinations.

Let it all go

and find the place of rest and peace,

and certain transformation.

Participants’ Reflections:

  • I want to say something about my father and my difficult childhood and the pain of overcoming that. I know all of us had trauma and the trauma gives us strength. It is with that that I thank the fact that I had the parent that I had because I probably wouldn’t have been able to survive the things that happened in my life if I didn’t have that strength. It is something to think about.

  • While I was sitting in silence during the meditation, I think it all comes down to feeling worthy. In my childhood, there were many situations where it was demonstrated to me that I didn’t feel worthy. So I hold onto the pain to prove that I am worth something. It’s a child-like reaction to maintain some sort of survival. This is painful to go through, but it’s a good doorway for me to focus on worthiness.

  • Thank you for sharing this with us. It’s powerful. Even before we went into the silence, I thought of the book Little Bee which has a main character who says she has scars but she wears them just fine because she knows scars represent survival. Also, during the meditation, I was thinking about an image of strong on the outside and soft on the inside which is what I imagine you feel. You talked about worthiness, the image of a geode—it looks like a stone on the outside and has purple amethyst on the inside with its purple crystals that are pure beauty and healing and strength. I offer you that image of the purple amethyst geode.

  • Thank you. That was really moving and painful. I’m wrestling with something from my childhood. When I was little, my father used a wooden siding shake on us when we did something wrong. He would spank us with it. It was definitely painful and traumatic. I have come to terms with him, but I don’t think I can excuse that kind of treatment on innocent little kids. Even if we did something that was really dangerous to someone or ourselves. I just think a better answer would have been to hold us in his arms and hug us and tell us why he was so upset and try to come to some resolution.

  • Keep in mind if you hang onto the judgment within yourself, you keep suffering with it. Then you are the one suffering to this day even though it’s a past event.

  • Thank you. That was a powerful reading. I’m glad you were able to share this today. The line that stuck out for me was ‘The only answer I come up with is it hurt so bad, I have to keep it to show how much I worked to survive.’ It’s how I lived my life for 40 years with the pain of how my father treated me. It hurt so bad I didn’t want to let go of it because that would trivialize what the pain felt like. It felt so large I wanted everyone to know how much it hurt. I did learn that phrase ‘pain is inevitable and suffering is optional.’ It was a wake up for me to realize that I don’t have to suffer even if I experience pain. I’m going through a minor problem with a bad case of poison ivy right now. I am keeping my focus on the positive things in my life and not focusing on the suffering of this. And I’m moving forward because what is not a choice for me is my serenity. I am committed to my serenity at all costs. Even if I am in pain.

  • Thank you. That was very powerful. I don’t think ‘thank you’ is the word I want at the moment. Where I went with that was to the universal pain perpetrated our forefathers. Then I went to the song out of the 60s by Helen Reddy. I Am Woman Hear Me Roar and realized that’s like my armor. It buoys the spirit. Partly because, with that song, I am not alone. What we have is universal. The other thought that came to mind—we talk about trauma but the trauma perpetrated o by people we loved is very different from other kind of traumas that happens.

  • It brings me back to what I learned from Matt Kahn: that my father abandoned his light and his heart in my life. And therefore, my siblings and I suffered because of his abandonment of himself. He needed to resolve that as a soul level. It helps me separate from the trauma through a child’s eyes that I felt.

  • Thank you for staying steady as I shared with you today. I am hopeful because I have things to do to help in this situation, I have writing, reflecting, a flower essence for worthiness. This is something I can do from the outside to help on the inside, as well as my thoughts and my actions, and having a ritual with it of letting go. And if I have to do it again six months down the road, I will because I’m worth it and so are you all. One of the things that Susan Jeffers’ teaches in Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway is to believe that we count. Absolutely count in this world. It’s not something that was demonstrated to many of us when we were younger. And so we reparent ourselves. With those thoughts, I wish you well on your day. It’s always important to heed our limits and listen to our warning signs and be gentle and practice self-care. Thank you.

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