January 24, 2020

Mother Nature is one smart lady…

Straight off the bat in the Introduction to all my new Beginners Yoga Courses as I outline to the new students how to look after their bodies and get the most out of the course, I always say that ‘we do not work with pain’. If it’s truly painful to listen to their body, to stop and I will give them an alternative asana to practice. It made me wonder:  what if life worked in the same way? What if as soon as something got painful we could just say stop and be given something easier?

We all spend life (both consciously and unconsciously) moving away from pain and towards pleasure.  That’s basic human nature. Some pain is avoidable: so we avoid it. Most sensible! Some pain however is just not, there is no easier option. We suffer losses and disappointments that just are going to be a part of our lives however much we wish they weren’t. It’s how we learn to deal with this sort of unavoidable pain that allows us to stretch and grow as people.  There is a difference between moving through pain and dodging pain. Pain is an essential part of the healing process if we will let it be so.

How we stretch and grow in the asana Lizard is by leaning into the stretch, in a controlled way, in a safe environment and over time it gets that little bit easier. Just a little. And the next time a little easier still. And then, we stop and we move on and we focus on another asana. Then when it’s time for Lizard in the next class we once again lean into that stretch and it’s a little teensy bit easier each time. Over time we can learn to be truly conscious whilst we are in it, to relax, breathe, appreciate it fully whatever the sensations our body is experiencing, knowing that it is doing good things for our bodies.

Leaning into unavoidable pain and grief is much the same process. If we try to avoid it, do not acknowledge it, try to deny its existence it will always be there: a part of us that never gets any easier. We consume a huge amount of mental energy keeping it hidden. This may feel like the least painful option but in the long run it’s much harder. It’s the double hip replacement surgery that will be needed down the line which could have been prevented with regular stretching. If we are brave enough to acknowledge our pain and our losses, and lean into them, we will move through them more easily. The purpose of grief is to help us heal our pain so by leaning into it we allow the mechanism that Mother Nature gave us to work it’s slow but magical healing work.

I have found this concept hard (it’s counter–intuitive after all) but invaluable. When dealing with recent losses to be able to lean into pain and loss in a controlled way in a safe environment. In small chunks of time. To feel the feeling all the way through, to fully acknowledge it. To breathe; to experience it.  And then to take my focus elsewhere until the next time. And each time it gets a little easier. The healing work happens. Mother Nature is one smart lady.