There is a wonderful quote that I encourage you to contemplate:
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”
This quote doesn’t talk about physical pain, but emotional pain. Emotional pain can manifest as insecurity, discomfort and discontent, in addition to the more obvious sadness, longing, rejection or frustration. But you don’t have to suffer when you’re in pain.
In her interview with Oprah Winfrey, Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chodron explains how we can bring an end to our suffering using a beautifully simple exercise you can do anytime! Here’s the video:
One of the key elements of eliminating suffering is to accept the situation – to accept the pain in the moment, instead of trying to push it away. The situation IS, no matter how much you try to wish it away, and your resistance to the situation is one of the causes of suffering (for example, if you experience a breakup, you may spend a lot of time wishing that things could be different, but since they aren’t, you suffer far more than you need to).
Pema Chodron also explains the benefits of breathing in the situation to accept it, and how this marvelous exercise influences your physical state by releasing the awful knots in the stomach or pains in the heart, physical symptoms that remind us how real emotional pain is (this influences your physiology and makes you feel better right away).
Accepting the situation is something you can practice in meditation. You can start with less emotionally charged situations to familiarize yourself with the technique, and then apply it to situations that are more emotionally painful:
Relax into a meditative state… focus your attention on your breath to calm your mind… when your mind is calm, breathe in the unwanted situation and just sit with it – let it be in your space, in your experience. It already is anyway, so stop resisting it and let it in. KNOW THAT THIS IS SAFE.
Okay here is the situation. Right now, in this moment, just breathe. Inhale and accept, exhale and feel the words, “Thank you.” Inhale and accept, exhale and feel the words, “Thank you.” Do this as many times as you need to. Saying thanks makes it easier to accept the situation because just saying thank you implies that the situation is, or can be, beneficial to you. That, in itself, releases suffering. Yes, it still hurts, but you can shift your focus from “poor me” to gratitude for the hidden benefits of the situation.
Try this exercise anytime you feel pain (and yes, you can use this for physical pain too, as a way to feel better emotionally and easing your pain by shifting your attention on to something positive).