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Math, the one subject in school I loved a little (or a lot) less than the others. I’ve always joked that I’m more of a feelings rather than numbers kinda gal. I will say, there is one equation that is crystal clear to me: pain x resistance = suffering. In an imperfect world where we’re constantly facing challenges, a shift in perspective can make all the difference. I’m talking the difference between fighting to swim upstream or choosing to catch a wave and riding it into calmer waters.

We know pain is inevitable, right? It’s a part of the beautiful and messy human experience. What is completely in our control and a total game changer is the way we respond to pain-emotionally, physically, all of it. It’s natural to try to resist pain. And boy, do we try to resist it. We may think something like “this isn’t fair/why is this happening to me/I always get dealt the shitty cards/I can’t deal with this/here’s just one more thing to prove I’m not ____” (fill in the blank with some shame-based, self-critical adjective). Maybe we shove our feelings down so far we don’t even recognize how much pain we’re in. One of my mentors calls it “low level suffering”. Ya know, that autopilot mode we tend to go on to power through and convince ourselves we’re just fine when really we’re slowly losing ourselves. Perhaps we take fierce action against our pain, putting all energy into fighting it. Denial can have a strong hold. Try as we might, our circumstances often still stand. All of this resistance is exhausting, and ineffective. The good news is, there’s a better way.

When we take the ‘resistance’ piece out of the equation, we’re also letting go of suffering. The suffering that comes from compounding already difficult circumstances with our own often well-intended but misguided attempts at inner peace. How might things look different if we eased up a bit on clinging to how we wished things were and moved into trusting the way things are? Anyone who knows me, knows I still get caught up in the loose-loose battle of resistance. I’m human. It’s all good. But ever since I thought up the little mantra, “flow, don’t fight” as a way to check in with myself whenever I feel that familiar rub of resistance, things like calm, joy, hope, and gratitude have been showing up more and more.

Here’s some of my favorite tools for responding to our pain from an empowered place, and letting to of unnecessary suffering:

-Take an honest look at your patterns, heal old wounds ~ Get real with yourself about how you experience resistance. The more insight and awareness we can cultivate, the greater our ability to move into a state of higher vibration.

-Use an anchoring statement ~ Find something that feels true to you, such as “this feels hard, may I tap into my inner peace”, or, “this feels hard, may I draw on my inner strength”. These kinds of statements not only acknowledge that you’re facing a moment of difficulty, which dissolves any denial, it also calls on the inherent goodness in each of us for support.

-Whatever you do, breathe first ~ I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve never had a good outcome when I react based on fight/flight mode. When our brains are all hijacked with warning signals going off, it’s very difficult to think straight. Pausing for a couple deep breaths, maybe with a hand on your heart, creates space to regroup to take action from a more heart-centered place.

-Find choice and control amongst the chaos ~ When we move away from being a victim of circumstance, we open up to the possibilities of creating our reality. No matter what happens to us, we hold all the power in how we perceive these events and choose to make meaning out of them.

-Take off the blinders, look at the big picture ~ So often we focus on all that isn’t going right, and minimize the good stuff. It’s call the negativity bias, and it’s part of our evolution as a means for survival. We can work around this by choosing to expand our focus. Nothing lasts forever, so even our most challenging stuff will change. Don’t forget to look at what is working right now. Gratitude journaling does wonders for this.

-Build on inner strengths ~ We’ve all got them, qualities within that have kept us going and already helped us through plenty of hard stuff. Lately, I’ve been really digging focusing on my “essential spiritual self” (again, this is within everyone). That place within us that is inherent, whole, and has an endless supply of love.

-Take in the good ~ Why is it that those moments of joy, contentment, gratitude, all-the-warm-fuzzies, seem to come and go so fast, but we have a hard time shaking that crappy thing that really struck a nerve? The answer is in the way our brains are wired to hold onto the threats we perceive. The good news is, we can contrast this by allowing ourselves to really savor and sink into those feel good moments. Next time you catch yourself in a blissful state, see if you can stay with it. Capture the whole sensory experience. Create a mental snapshot that you can come back to over and over.

-Learn the lessons, love yourself more ~ There’s a lesson in everything, and thank goodness for that. It’s how we grow into our highest potential. When we look for the underlying message in our experiences, we come to appreciate even the most challenging ones. But please, use these lessons as opportunities for more self-love. Being gentle and compassionate to your beautiful soul as you may fall and rise back up, with a side of humor, will do wonders for your ability to integrate your experiences in a useful way.

Whew, that was a lot of stuff! Thoughts?! Comments, questions?! Lemme hear ’em in the comment section below!