Changing Your Relationship With Difficulty
“Pain is not wrong. Reacting to pain as wrong initiates the trance of unworthiness. The moment we believe something is wrong, our world shrinks and we lose ourselves in the effort to combat the pain.”Tara Brach
When something alarming or triggering happens we can watch the “fight”, “flight”, or “freeze” response come online. In the midst of a heightened flood of present moment experience—all the thoughts, feelings, and sensations—we also simultaneously regress to and act from mindsets formed in past times, especially times when we were younger and less capable than we are today. Acting from a regressed state can obscure clear sight of the options and possibilities available in any moment.
This might seem inescapable. Maybe you’ve never even considered it could be any other way. The good news is there is a way out of this automatic behavior. On the other side of it is greater personal power and effectiveness, the capacity to remain grounded and insightful in all circumstances.
Whatever obstacle or pain we face, it has not arrived to be acted upon or dealt with, but instead to be seen, accepted, and integrated. The presenting obstacle does not block the way forward. Fully accepting it right now is the way forward. From true complete acceptance the next step will unfold without force. By changing your relationship with difficulty itself to one of acceptance and willingness, you remove effort from your relationship with life itself and free up your energy for greater vitality and fulfillment.
Can we follow the wise witness and choose calm accepting presence in moments of intensity, whether in the boardroom or the bedroom? What freedom lies beyond the pervasive need to change our current situation? The aliveness, the power, and the engagement we desire are found in the very heart of what is here right now.
I have a reminder taped to my laptop that reads “Slow Down.” One way to slow down is by paying attention to your breath. Don’t control yourself at all, just stop doing anything—even with your mind. When you have stabilized your calm, you can let your attention go to the difficult experience, returning attention to your breath or feeling your hands as often as you need to return to calm. Just be with the difficulty without making any meaning out of it or any plans. Flood it with acceptance. Bring up as much kindness, clarity, warmth, and calm as you can and just drown your experience in those qualities. See what happens when you really do this. This is a lifelong practice, not a quick fix; it will impact your life slowly, deeply and profoundly.
No matter what is going on right now, you can hold the intention to do this. Nothing in this world is more powerful than your presence and acceptance and nothing can take away your power to recommit. You have the capacity to provide a calm and connected space for everything inside and outside of you.