Integrating the Grim Reaper

“I came to see clearly the invitation to face the mystical, serpent-like beast, not to have my chance at defeating, and slaying her, but instead to take the alchemical opportunity of see her clearly, for the first time, as the promised phoenix of transformation.” -Sept. 26, 2016 Camino-in-Writing.

Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and Buddhism practitioner, offers an equation for suffering: “Pain + Resistance = Suffering”.  I find this simple equation incredibly useful, and true.  Pain is a given in life, pain happens.  Death is a given in life, death happens.  Loss is a given in life, loss happens.  Change is a given in life, change happens.  But, why then do we resist all these givens?  When we resist pain, death, loss, and/or change, suffering happens.

It is true that even if we accept pain, death, loss and change we will still suffer, and feel some hurt and/or discomfort, but we are guaranteed to amplify this innate “negative” reaction to loss or change when we resist it happening in the first place.   Grief, sorrow, sadness, and discomfort are all NATURAL, HEALTHY responses to experiences of loss or change.  There is nothing wrong with these “negative feelings”, they are actually just feelings; and, they definitely do not require our fixing of them.  When we feel elated due to receiving flowers, or a warm hug, or a hot cup of (whatever your drink of preference is), do we judge ourselves and think “oh, I should fix this Joy, I should stop, or get rid of this positive feeling.”?  No, of course we don’t.  We are more than willing to accept positive states and feelings, and we are too often more than willing to move to the other side of the room when sadness rocks up to our internal party.  Of course, it is natural to feel repelled by the negative, we appear to be designed, or at the very least conditioned that way.  But, we have developed a prefrontal cortex for a good reason, and this aspect of ourselves, that which has the capacity for contemplation, consideration, and reflection, can empower us with DISCERNMENT and CHOICE to accept, feel, and all-in-good-time move through and on from of painful feelings.

Unnecessary suffering happens when we avoid, deny, or fight against our natural responses of grief, longing, despair, hurt, sorrow, and pain.  And this is where Rick’s handy “Pain + Resistance = Suffering (I’d like to take it further and say Unnecessary Suffering) is a gem of an equation to remember…especially in tough times.

Happy/Sad and ultimately Empowered Trails!


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