"A revelation of insight into the foundations of human suffering & transcendence. It not only lays out essential steps for inner freedom and joy but illuminates the way to true human potential." Paul Rademacher, author: A Spiritual Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe

"The masterwork of a profoundly gifted healer of the soul. Dazzling, challenging, wondrously useful." Peggy Rubin, author: To Be and How To Be, Transforming Your Life Through Sacred Theatre

"Rewiring the Soul is one the best introductions to the spiritual life I've ever read. Not esoteric but real-world and practical. The implications are profound." Peter Shepherd, author: Daring To Be Yourself

Monday, February 15, 2016

Finding Your Way Through Pain

Pain can’t be avoided. Sooner or later it catches up with all of us, in many different disguises. Nor can you compare your pain to mine, or vice versa because what may cause you great pain, may be easier for me to bear, and what may cause me great pain, may be easier for you to bear. Pain is simply pain.

Pain is also not something that can be blithely pushed aside, ignored, or something from which you can fully distract yourself. You have to go through it – live the process, so to speak – and while Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote so movingly of the stages of grief, I don’t believe there are also specific stages of pain, but I do believe there are ways you can help yourself as you move through its peaks and valleys, as you feel it overwhelm you, drag you under, nauseate you, paralyze you, and those ways of moving through pain are what I want to share with you in this article.

None of these ways will take your pain away, but if you practice them, one by one, bit by bit, perhaps at first only one or two, and then later more, you will find that your pain becomes more bearable, more manageable, and one day, when it has been left behind you in the shadows, and a new pain assails you, you will realize that all these ways that you learned about, now help you much more readily in your new pain, even if it is a pain of greater magnitude.

I recommend that you read through the following nine points and then decide which resonate the most with your current state. If you are not undergoing a period of pain right now, you could still begin to practice these because they will enhance your life in ways you cannot even begin to imagine before you incorporate them into your life. If you are living through much pain right now, simply choose one or two that speak to you and begin with those. Add others as you notice that the ones you chose first are being woven into an integral part of the tapestry of your life. Notice how this practice affects your pain.

1.       Remain conscious & aware: be present and mindful 
  • This is important because the more you remain present, the less you will be willing to allow yourself to ruminate (thoughts that repeat incessantly in your mind) inside the pain. The pain is much more in the thoughts and feelings you have that keep it alive, than in the actual pain.
  • Here’s how to do it:
    • Start with small steps.
    • Take a 15-minute mindfulness walk every day (read this).
    • During the course of your day, when a surge of pain races over you, choose to say to yourself, that although you don’t yet know when you will be over this pain, and although you acknowledge that it is very hard to bear, just for now, instead of further focusing on the pain, you will focus on that brilliant flash of colour in the bougainvillea, or the beauty of the evening sky, or the sound of birdsong, or the soughing of wind through the trees. This will help shift your energy minutely, but perceptibly, if you watch for it. You can repeat this as often as you wish, and most particularly, as often is necessary. Think of it as putting a soothing balm on a wound. You’re not pretending the wound doesn’t exist – you’re simply taking good care of it. 
2.       Recognize that you always have a choice 
  • o   This is important because if you know that you can choose – as illustrated above – to focus on something different than your pain, not by pretending it’s not there, but just for this moment, you choose to see beauty instead of pain.
  • Here’s how to do it:
    • By remaining present, when something happens or is said, or when you have specific thoughts that arouse certain feelings, begin to have a new narrative. In other words, begin to change the inner dialogue about exactly what is possible here. And what is possible, is that you have a number of choices in how you react, think, and feel. At the beginning simply comprehending this is a bit like learning a new language, but if you continually remind yourself of it, you will soon see that there are alternatives to your old ways of dealing with matters. 
3.       Take good care of your thoughts & inner state: This implies that you always are aware of your thoughts & feelings and make the choice to regulate your inner state as you observe your thoughts & feelings 
  • This is important because you may be on a path to rumination - circular or obsessive thoughts about something - causing feelings you have no insight into, nor power over, unless you do use awareness at all times.
  • Here’s how to do it:
    • Practice this by changing the self-dialogue you typically have whenever you fall into habitual patterns
    • Simply tell yourself that although you don't yet know the outcome (to a problem), or although you don't yet know how you will overcome the pain (of a situation), or how you will resolve something you imagine might happen, that just for NOW, you will focus on something else
    • If you let that something else be beauty in nature, you may notice a slight inner shift.
    • It may not last for long, but you can repeat as needed. After a time, it will begin to happen on its own. You will realize that you are spending much more time in a good inner space as compared to before.
    • This is a choice. 
4.       Forgive: leave the past behind 
  • This is important because if you don’t forgive, you will always be energetically connected to whatever it was that happened. Being energetically connected, means it will always have power over you. Simply stated: you will never be free.
  • Here’s how to do it:
    • Be as aware of yourself as possible simply by practicing it every day. As thoughts arise about what happened, or a specific person who did something that you find yourself unable to forgive, tell yourself in that inner self-dialogue that you’ve arrived at this very same place many times before. Next, you typically have continued down a path of pain, repeating mentally what happened, or thinking about the perpetrator of your pain.
    • Now, however, in this change in inner self-dialogue, you take two steps.
    • The first is just as in point number three above.
    • The second – with regards to forgiving – is to tell yourself that although you don’t yet know how you can forgive, you do know that you can intend to forgive. And then you focus, as in point three, on something of beauty in nature.
    • Repeat this each time these thoughts of the painful event/person arise. This will cause a new neural pathway to come into being that will, eventually, lead you to forgiveness and inner freedom. 
5.       Love the self: all of the above points already imply that you do love the self 
  • This is important because as the love you have for yourself begins to grow, you will automatically feel better and better, and in those instances when you do not, that same love will help you find a better inner space of balance and harmony.
  • Here’s how to do it:
    • Start by noticing how you feel (or what you are thinking) as you wake up. If you’re not in a good place, take care of it, just as you would take care of a headache or a cut on your finger from chopping vegetables.
    • How you now take care of your inner state can start very simply: practice the two small steps in point one. Then, incorporate, whenever possible, into your day, several 10-15 minute periods (or less - even a few minutes when you’re alone in the car will suffice, if it is repeated often enough) of some listening time to inspirational or motivational talks and seminars that are freely available online. What this does is to raise your energetic frequency – how you feel – in other words.
    • Some examples of places to look for such talks: www.ted.com, and if you like any of the speakers, you could see if they have other talks available on Youtube, where you can find literally thousands of talks by world-renowned speakers. Start with Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Caroline Myss, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Norman Doidge, to mention only a few). If a given talk lasts more than the space of time you have available, simply carry on listening at the point where you left off the next time you have a few minutes. Notice how this raises your energy. Reading books by people like these, or others that speak to you on some level, or books about the lives of people you have come to admire, will also raise your energy.
    • Eventually you will be able to raise your own energy, but for now, use these wonderfully effective tools: mindfulness, focusing on beauty, listening to others who raise your energy. 
6.       Take responsibility for all you feel, think, say and do & for how you react 
  • This is important because it means you are in charge. You don’t have blind reactions. Your buttons don’t get pushed. You are in charge of how you feel, think, say, and react, and you are in charge of all that you do, so you have choices, not only about your reactions, but also about how you wind up feeling about it all.
  • Here’s how to do it:
    • Be conscious and aware of yourself and your surrounding at all times.
    • Use the tools described in all prior points of this article. 
7.       Know that your happiness is your own responsibility: it need not depend on outer circumstances 
  • This is important because, simply stated, it gives you freedom. As long as you depend on another or on outer circumstances to be happy, you will never be free. In other words, your happiness will always be conditional.
  • Here’s how to do it:
    • Above all, be conscious and aware of yourself
    • Note when you are not happy. Note the inner self-dialogue you maintain about what you need to be happy
    • Use all the points in this article to begin to change that and to take on responsibility for your own happiness and inner well-being. 
8.       Have meaning in your life 
  • This is important because living a life with meaning gives you a sense of purpose. Living a life with meaning is – as I say in my book Rewiring the Soul – like having an oak tree inside of you. When pain assails you, that oak tree will be one of your strongest columns of support.
  • Here’s how to do it:
    • Pay close attention to your gut reaction to all things in your life. When you notice butterflies, or that electrical zing that we often associate with meeting someone we are very attracted to, when you are having a conversation, listening or viewing a documentary about some subject, you owe it to yourself to explore that subject more closely. That zing of excitement is telling you that there is something in it that connects with you on levels that go far beyond pure interest. Perhaps it is there that your meaning lies.
    • Pay attention to the things that cause you to lose the notion of time: i.e., when you are engaged in doing them, you are so ‘into’ them, that you simply don’t notice the hours passing by.
    • Move in the direction of that which gives you joy. Rumi said When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy. 
9.       Be as interested in developing your inner life & self, as you are in developing your outer life & self 
  • This is important because it gives balance to your life. Only focusing on the outer quest is not enough. It will leave you feeling empty. Only focusing on the inner life is also not enough, bearing in mind that we are born into a world of external reality. It is the healthy balance between the two that brings you closer to inner peace and well-being.
  • Here’s how to do it:
    • Follow all the points mentioned in this article.
A child falls and scrapes its knee. The fright and pain cause him to cry. Mother comes running, hugs him, kisses the knee, and finds a cookie (and/or antiseptic cream and a band-aid). Miraculously the crying and fright stop. Part of the reason has to do with mother's safe and enveloping arms. Part of it is the distraction of the coveted cookie. And part of it is (although with a small child there is generally nothing 'conscious' about this) a choice that is made to pay more attention to the good thing (mother's arms, hug, kiss, cookie), than to the bad thing (falling and scraping the knee).

Let this small and simple analogy serve to help you make good choices when you are suffering. You may not have anyone around to comfort you (think Nelson Mandela on Robben Island for 27 years), you may not be getting a cookie (think Victor Frankl in Auschwitz during the Holocaust), but you always have a choice about how you think about what is happening to you. And therein lies freedom. It was actually Frankl who realized during his own suffering and famously stated: Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. 

 And the Buddha said: Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.


Also visit my book website: www.gabriellakortsch.com where you may download excerpts or read quotations from any of my books. My latest book Emotional Unavailability & Neediness: Two Sides of the Same Coin is available globally on Amazon in print & Kindle. You can also obtain it (or any of my other books) via Barnes & Noble.

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