Whenever we are presented with pain in our life, whether it is emotional, mental or physical, we push back, resisting it. We want it to go away, wish for it to disappear, desire to change it, control it, make it different than the way it is. We want to escape.
But if you look closely, you’ll see that doing so only makes the pain, the suffering worse. In fact the suffering itself is actually created by the resistance to the pain. As the saying goes – “In life, pain is inevitable, yet suffering is optional”.
So whenever you feel any form of pain, instead of resisting it, embrace it.
As the wonderful Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh says – treat your fear, your anger, your grief….your pain, like a mother treats her child. Embrace it, hold it in the loving attention of your awareness.
As you embrace your pain, as you engulf it in a loving, open awareness, in a welcoming presence, it will slowly start to dissipate.
If you find it helpful, you can breathe through it. Use your breath to help hold you conscious attention on the pain and to help you in embracing it. Breathing is magical and the breath can serve both as an anchor for awareness as well as means to help dissolve the pain that you are experiencing. If you choose to have the breath as your aid, remember to breathe correctly – allow your breathing to be slow, quiet and abdominal (diaphragmatic), breathe through your nose and not your mouth.
Alternatively, if you are a more physical person or the feeling manifests itself as a sensation in your body – allow yourself to feel it fully. Do not think about it, just feel it.
The most important thing is to be completely aware (in a welcoming manner) of what you are feeling, whether you are simply aware of it or feeling it fully, the crucial point is embracing your feelings, thoughts and sensations in a welcoming, spacious awareness – giving yourself and your experience the gift of space. (described in even more detail in the linked article)
Keep at it until the pain is gone, or at least until it has been greatly reduced. Embrace whatever comes up. Welcome any and all thoughts, pictures, emotions and sensations. Love whatever comes up.
At this point you can also simply decide to let the pain go. You may be surprised, but ultimately holding on to your pain is simply an internal decision that is there by habit. Thus you can choose to make the opposite decision and simply let it go, like dropping an unneeded heavy item from your hand.
You can also ask yourself a simple question to help facilitate the release – “Could I allow myself to let this feeling go?”, you can follow it up with “Would I? and “When?” – these questions will help you identify your resistance to the act of letting go. By noticing your response to these questions (which may in the beginning or in some cases be negative “No”, “I can’t”, “Later”….) and choosing a positive affirmative answer (in order “Yes”, “Yes”, “Now”) you will be able to let whatever you are holding on to, go.
It is in this moment, when the current pain is greatly reduced or perhaps even gone, that you need to look deeper and find the cause for the pain that has surfaced and is perhaps to a degree still present. You cannot hold the crying child that is your pain in your arms forever and even if you have temporarily calmed it down, you cannot truly help it if you do not know what the cause of its distress is.