No Freedom without Pain

“…we’re constantly waking up to what we’re about, what we’re really doing in our lives. And the fact is, that’s painful. But there’s no possibility of freedom without this pain.”

Charlotte Joko Beck

Meditation is often talked about as a stress reliever. Just the words mindfulness and meditation conjure up visuals of a serene guru, sitting on a peaceful mountain top without a care in the world.

And so it’s often a rude awakening to new meditation students who come to the cushion looking for peace and instead find themselves suddenly faced with all of the pain and anger that had been stewing deep in their psyche, unresolved, for years or even decades.

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As you start to practice mindfulness, you start to wake up to your own habitual patterns. The subconscious becomes conscious and you may not always like what you find. You start waking up to the truth of your thoughts, beliefs and feelings and that can be an incedibly painful process.

This is why, when people ask me about starting a meditation or mindfulness practice, I always recommend they join a group with a good teacher. Having at least a group can help provide support through the difficult process of waking up to yourself. Having a trained and experienced teacher can be incredibly beneficial to help guide you through the difficult waters of self-realization.

As I discussed in my Hero’s Journey post, the path to freedom leads through pain. It requires courage and strength to take an honest stock of your life. There are things you wish you could do better, things you wish you didn’t feel but do and learning to first sit with these things and accept them as a part of who you are is hard to do.

And so, if you’re just getting started with meditation or living a more mindful, intentional life and finding it hard and painful, give yourself a bit of compassion and kindness. Waking up to the reality of your life and letting go of the stories you’ve told yourself is hard and can be very painful.

Despite the pain, I do believe that true freedom does come, if you stick with the practice. “Freedom,” to me, means being able to live my life with greater intention and less reactivity. That has been the benefit of the practice for me: while I’m certainly no bodhisattva, I do feel that I can see myself and my life more clearly and I’m able to choose my response to the challenges that arise, rather than acting from reactivity and habit.

Out of the pain, freedom is possible.

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