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Many of us tend to operate from the unconscious belief that if you were good, pure, or perfect enough, that we would never suffer. That if we just work at it hard enough, that we will eventually reach a place in which we no longer experience pain. A place in which the body is always comfortable, the mind never races, the heart never aches.
This might seem like a weird thing to believe, but I know that I hold this belief because when I do (inevitably) experience suffering, what do I do? I blame myself for it.
I tell myself that that if I’d just meditated more consistently, getting cut off in traffic would never bother me. If I’d done more asana practice that my back would never hurt. If I were a better, more evolved person I wouldn’t ever experience rejection or heartbreak. If I drank more green smoothies I wouldn’t ever get sick.
But here’s the truth:
Suffering is a part of life. Our infinite spirits are housed, for better and for worse, in finite bodies, and along with them comes degradation, decay, and eventually death. We live in intimate connection with myriad volatile beings who are prone to maiming us with all manner of accidental and intentional weapons.
Alongside all that comes pain.
Also worth noting that on this path, there is no arriving. This is a journey without end (except maybe when you die, or maybe not even then.)
I cannot be perfect enough to escape pain. None of us can. No amount of goodness alleviates all suffering. There is no get-out-of-jail-free card. (Side note: abolish all prisons.)
Your lack of goodness is not to blame when you do feel pain. Your goodness or perfection cannot prevent you from feeling pain.
This might seem sort of depressing, but for me these truths spell out freedom. If my own goodness or lack thereof is not to blame for my suffering, I am liberated from blaming myself. I can stop seeing my current experience of pain as some indicator of how “behind” I am on my spiritual path.
I can choose to lean into how doing yoga makes us more capable of experiencing all things, including pain. Being able to be present with our feelings and actually experience our pain is one of the great gifts of the yoga practice.