People try their hardest to live life as happy as one can and so they take the most painless, effortless route that maintains the illusion of an easy life. It is this lifestyle that makes traumatic life moments much harder than it has to be. The persistence to avoid pain only hinders one from having complete mental health, and so ignoring suffering altogether only thrusts one into mental anguish. One can only survive the worst if one is disciplined, in which spiritual and mental health becomes whole.
The following techniques will be blending discipline with the Yamas of yoga practice, in which one can find suffering as a part of life that can be used for good for the health of the mind and soul.
Many people choose to deal with pain by instant gratification, or avoiding pain as long-term and pursuing pleasure immediately. By pushing suffering away, it does not get rid of it, but rather it is just put aside.
Most often it comes back randomly, forcefully, and fiercely. Delaying gratification is how one may get through suffering; pain comes first, and then relief brings pleasure. However, suffering is not always so easy to face, and even harder to confront when one is fearful. Within the Yama, Ahimsa (nonviolence), one can find the courage they need to confront such pain. In order to achieve courage, we have to be exposed to our fear, meaning we cannot hide from it. Such courage means to accept fear and powerlessness as it is and that courage cannot exist without suffering either.
Courage enables one to accept reality, and in reality we can make the map that can lead one out of suffering and changes that enhance one’s growth.
In the Niyama, Santosha (contentment), we can find more ways to accept our fears. One such way is to look past one’s own labeling of fear and suffering in which one does not see fear and suffering as bad, but as neutral to life and to spiritual and mental growth. If one can look past their preferences and illusions, suffering will not seem harmful. Lastly, with Santosha, we can learn to be content with suffering; the longer one is discontent with suffering, the more they are incomplete. One way one can find contentment with suffering is to develop a deeper connection with their spirituality or religion. One can look to Buddha for the meaning and good of suffering. One can look to God to be blessed with grace. No matter how one finds contentment, it is only found when one releases themselves from fear.
Finally, one must accept love. Love comes from many people, and it is not limited to just family or friends. Ahimsa also recognizes that violence to others is found when one attempts to help another rather than support; the difference is that support recognizes that one’s experience is one’s own and approaches another’s journey with love, and help is offering guidance based on their own journey. The greatest love and support comes from a psychotherapist, who is the most likely to help guide one through suffering. However, one must remember that a psychotherapist (or anyone) cannot take away their suffering or problems, they will not provide the answers either. One can find another person who has suffered in the exact same way, but their answers will not be the same. The only support one can receive from a psychotherapist is assistance in finding one’s own answers.
Finally, one should also recognize the benefits of suffering to the soul. Suffering often changes our thinking styles and reveals us to new ways of thinking about life. Most people see suffering as an inconvenience or hindering one’s potential. However, with the Niyama, Tapas (self-discipline), one can learn that suffering is needed to enhance growth. As mentioned, suffering introduces one to a new perspective that can change their life, or who they are as a person. Suffering can reveal ourselves to the soul in which knowledge and wisdom can be attained. Instead of seeing suffering as a hindrance, one can see that suffering is a chance to grow and change.
Within the past 9 years, I have lost a special uncle as well as both of my parents. All of them were drug addicts, and at a young age I thought they would be there forever despite knowing about the harm they were doing to themselves. Each time one of them died, I had to enter a new stage of grief, and at the last death all the pain merged to create what seemed like everlasting suffering. At some point, the pain was too much and I had important things to do, so I pushed it aside. It worked for awhile, but when it came back it was worse than before. I still wasn’t ready for it, and the harder I tried to push it away, the more it pushed me back.
Eventually, I was devoured in it again. It was so overwhelming, that I knew if I were to survive the suffering that I could not do it on my own. With the support of my therapist, I was confronted with problems I always avoided, but I had the courage to find my own answers to them. I was suffering, but I was okay with it. I was learning more about myself in the midst of my own suffering. I was growing in the midst of my suffering. It was when I noticed my growth and new knowledge that I knew there was good in suffering.
While my suffering has not ended for what seems like a long time, I have accepted it as a part of my life, but it is not my whole life. There is happiness in life, as well as excitement, wonder, etc. But there is also death, and ‘without death, there cannot be life’. From my own successes and mistakes, I found my own answers that helped me get through the worst. The techniques of discipline and the Yamas are not meant to be answers to the guide of getting through the worst, but rather the support one needs to get through a life of suffering.