I’ve been going through an emotionally difficult time in the past few months. I’m realizing how much strength it takes to be ok with both pain and joy. 

One of my teachers said that “life is a gymnasium where we come to make ourselves stronger.” I resonate with that because it normalizes the challenges of life and says that we can use them to become stronger. This outlook replaces having a victim mentality and feelings of powerlessness. 

A poet I admire said that joy and pain are inseparable. “Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.”

Throughout my life, I was conditioned to believe that joy and pain are opposites. This conditioning instilled a fear of pain in me. The more I feared pain, the more I suffered. 

I’ve come to realize that joy and pain are two sides of the same coin. When I learn to open up to pain instead of running away in fear, I find more joy.

Mindfulness helps me find peace with both joy and pain. Being present and aware (mindful), creates a sense of spaciousness that is unconditionally accepting. Being open to this spaciousness is an act of fearlessness and is incredibly empowering. 

Everyone has their own way of being mindful and connecting to spaciousness. I like writing, traveling, meditation, nature, cardio, music, sex and other activities that let me feel open to all parts of myself. When I lose touch with this openness, I ultimately lose touch with myself. 

It’s a daily practice and a lot of work to bring mindfulness into your life. It also takes a lot of courage to acknowledge when you need help doing this, and then to figure out what kind of help works best for you at that time. You might reach out to a friend, partner, family member, therapist, teacher, personal trainer, pet, etc…

With mindfulness, the joy you feel is a kind of grace that creates space to hold your pain. Likewise, the pain you feel is also a kind of grace that creates space for more joy.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house. 
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, 
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor. 
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, 
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture, 
still, treat each guest honorably. 
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight. 
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. 
Be grateful for whatever comes
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond. 

- Jellaludin Rumi

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