By John Bruna
“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.” Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
It is quite natural and very healthy to seek out pleasure in our lives and try to avoid pain. From the moment we wake up, it is a natural instinct to seek happiness and try to plan our day around people and activities that bring us joy. I have yet to meet the person that wakes up with the attitude of intentionally seeking pain.
Having said that, pain is an integral part of life and does serve a very important purpose. Pain lets us know what we needs attention. When we are sick our body is letting us know that it is out of balance and we need to tend to it. A pain in our body, such as a stubbed toe, broken finger or a sore muscle, let us know we need to take care of it. Likewise, mental and emotional suffering in our life, informs us that we have some inner work to do.
If we look back in our lives, we will find that the times that we grew the most were often the result of painful events in our lives. It is when times are difficult and challenging that we are driven to look inside and develop ourselves. When life is easy and everything is going our way, we are rarely inspired to stretch ourselves and grow. It is the challenges of life that give us the opportunity to cultivate our highest potentials.
Of course this is not fun, nor do I suggest that we search out pain so that we can grow. Rather, that we understand that pain is a normal part of life and that it serves a purpose. When painful or challenging events in life do arise, and they will, instead of trying to avoid or minimize them, we have the opportunity to learn from them. They inform us about ourselves and the world we live in and provide us with the incentive to develop ourselves, cultivating the qualities, values, and wisdom to be the person we want to be.
In truth, life is filled with ups and downs, joys and sorrows, challenges and opportunity, pain and pleasure. For some reason, we think that our life should only contain the good stuff. As unrealistic as this is, it tends to be a pervasive attitude and makes even common problems and difficulties all the more challenging to deal with. If we can remember that we’ve already overcome much adversity in our lives, and it was in dealing with the adversity that we grew the most, when pain inevitably does show up, we can see it as a teacher, one more time, guiding us to look within and grow.