One of my clients and friends, Caitlyn Cook, has had a really tough year. She had a significant trauma mid year, extended ‘what the hell am I doing with my life’ moments and some chronic health issues that have really knocked her sense of self, dignity and aliveness.
She doesn’t just want to survive life, but really live it, so she decided to spend a week with me and Tara at Margaret River to work through her struggles.
We did a whole lot of deep Kundalini Tantra work (and drank wine, had massages, laughed, shopped, sang bhajans, chatted till 2am—this is Tantric after all).
Here’s her profound and tender insights from our time away (part one).
For most of my life, I’ve tried my best to avoid pain: I’ve tried to be more beautiful, get better marks, earn more money, have the perfect lover, waste no time ‘getting ahead’ in order to be closer to pleasure.
I strived for perfection to avoid pain.
The flip side of this has meant I’ve railed against being clinically depressed, having clinical anxiety, body image issues, chronic health issues, bad hair days, family problems, lack of money.
I resisted pain in order to preserve perfection (and pleasure).
Biologically, we’re wired to avoid pain in order to ensure our survival. But a lot of our biological wiring for pain-aversion is to help us stay safe from fire, tigers and falling rocks, or to ensure we aren’t thrown out of the community by f’ing them off (they help feed and shelter us after all).
In contemporary culture, our extreme pain-aversion gets us in trouble. Our lives and issues are more complex and ongoing than that of our ancestors. The types of psychological pain we experience is nuanced and chronic. There are triggers for our discomfort everywhere and implicit social expectations to remain ‘perfect’.
In the West, we strive to avoid pain and have as much pleasant, impressive life as we can. We’re grossed out or put off by all manner of ‘failures’ — disease, death, bankruptcies, breakdowns and endings.
We keep all manner of ‘failure’ away from public consumption. Not only do we hide elderly people, death, and misfortune, think about how much you share your celebrations with your friends and the world, but hide your sadness, breakdowns, fear, and mistakes?
The thing with these ‘failures’ is that they are not only as much a part of the process as health, life and fortune—but just as valuable.
In other words, the pain is just as valuable as pleasure.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Pain is just as precious as pleasure.
Every midwife knows
that not until a mother’s womb
softens from the pain of labour
will a way unfold
and the infant find that opening to be born.
There is treasure in your heart,
it is heavy with child.
All the awakened ones,
like trusted midwives are saying,
welcome this pain.
It opens the dark passage of Grace.
That rejection, break up, melt down, health issue, bankruptcy, loss is valuable and precious.
They obviously feel different, but pain has as many—if not more?—gifts for you to become who you really are.
We resist pain, wish it away, ignore it, get rageful against it. But at its core, it has gems.
For me, really acknowledging my pain and having conversations with it has shown me:
I am enough.
What I want matters.
I am beautiful.
I can trust. I can let go.
I am one powerful motherfucker.
I am loved.
I’m not alone.
We believe there is only bliss in pleasure. There is bliss in opening to the pain too. It seems counterintuitive, but when you let your heart break open and melt into the trust there, there is such openness, love, acceptance. Seems crazy and counterintuitive, I know. But it’s where bliss lives on this side of the coin.
Pain is sacred. In our Christian heritage, Jesus is God — light, loving, pure. And you know what, the Devil is God too — dark, loving, pure. They both have gifts for you. They both want to you move to your brightest, most real self. They just go about taking you there on different routes.
“I found Jesus and the devil set me free
I found the devil and the Saviour lives in me
I found the darkness at the center of my soul
I found the light and the darkness made me whole.”
Said this, I’m not an advocate of causing or putting up with ongoing pain caused by others or ourselves. This goes for self-talk, relationships, work, you name it. Sometimes, pain shows you it’s just plain toxic. When you relate to your pain consciously, you can discover the gems for you, but also the signs that say: Break up! Get out of here! This sucks! Tune in and discern what’s really going on. Listen and act.
In the case of pain you have no control over, trust that the pain will depart when it needs to. I’ve had moments when I’ve experienced the bliss of being pain-free. Pain comes back—it’s life. And sometimes if it’s the same issue you’re experiencing, there’s something deeper for you to learn in that. Deeper acceptance, deeper love, deeper vulnerability, deeper openness.
No matter what, know that you will be ok. It’s all part of the journey.
Life includes suffering: pleasure and pain. You’ll experience all manner of pleasure. And you’ll experience pain. So, come! Let’s re-navigate our relationship with it! It’s time.
Here’s 5 keys for pulling gems from pain + becoming allies with it:
- Welcome pain as highly intelligent and Divine. Be curious about it. Enquire about what it wants—love? Respect? Vitamins? To break up? Rest? Listen to it. Give it what it needs.
- Choose to not struggle against it. Don’t resist—accept it. (I know it hurts. I know it hurts A LOT.) Let yourself re-wire and come to mindfully accept the pain. No more resistance, you are safe to become allies with this pain. Really. Whatever alarm bells your mind has saying, ‘don’t’! this is one moment where you’re safe to override your ancient brain and choose to become allies with your pain. It’s what Buddha did too.
- Let your heart break open. It seems like you should shy away from pain, protect yourself from it, but let it break. You can do it. You’ll find it your heart breaks into love and acceptance. This is where bliss lives on this side of the coin.
- Share your pain with trusted others, but don’t let yourself dwell in it forever either. Just like you don’t want to be pleasure-obsessed and pain-averse, don’t become obsessed with pain and deny yourself pleasure.
- Trust that the pain will depart when it needs to. I’ve had moments when I’ve experienced the bliss of being pain-free.
Recommended articles + books on the power and bliss dark times + accepting pain
Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach
The Emotional Body as a Gateway to Metamorphosis, Chantelle Raven