Suffering vs. Managing | Turning Your Suffering Into an Offering

This past week I did something I’ve been wanting to do since before completing yoga teacher training. I led a discussion on yoga relaxation tips at a support group for Crohn’s and Colitis. Having lived with Colitis for about 18 years now, I can safely say that I have tried just about everything when it comes to feeling better. I’m doing pretty well, and though I’d rather not be on some of my medications, I’m taking it one day at a time, one breath at a time and living my life as fully as I can. 
I think the support group is a great idea. I have met more than a few people, particularly in the yoga community, that also have Crohn’s or Colitis. I always find it refreshing to talk to someone who has gone through similar experiences as myself. Much like sharing my deepest thoughts, feelings, and at times insecurities on this blog, sharing with my sensitive GI friends helps to normalize my every day. I, in no way feel as though I suffer from this condition. Instead, I believe I manage it pretty well and will one day overcome it. 
Which brings me to my next thought. A few times during the group discussion the term “suffer” was used in order to refer to people with this condition…people like me! I was taken aback at first because I don’t think I suffer from Colitis at all. But unfortunately, it’s common jargon to say “oh this person suffers from this and that person suffers from that.” I don’t like this term and frankly I wish that professional organizations and the medical industry would stop using it. Ultimately, it makes me sound like a victim, of which I can assure you, I am not. When I allow myself to become a victim that suffers from a condition, I feel really dis-empowered over my whole life. Something tells me that’s what they want me to believe. 

Well, I don’t buy it. Yoga has given me the tools to manage all of “my stuff” and with that comes a heavy dose of optimism and good attitude. By the way, everyone has got their own stuff to deal with. Maybe it’s physical, maybe it’s mental or emotional, but we’ve all got something going on whether we like it or not. Sure, some days/weeks/months when I have a flare up absolutely suck and I can get so damn tired and feel so awful that I think I will never feel better again. But you know what? I always end up feeling better. When I focus my practice and come back into balance, the flare ups go away and I’m on the right track again. During that whole time I never once let myself believe that I’m suffering. Instead, I focus on managing and coming back to center. 
My mom was amazing at this and I’m so glad to have learned it from her. In the 11 years that she had cancer, she never once said she suffered from it. Instead, she faced each day with whatever problem came up in order to manage and move on. She handled her stuff, but never let it make her feel like she was a victim or that she was suffering, even when in the end, she was in so much pain. 
The Yoga Sutras teach us that future pain is avoidable (heyam duhkham anagatam 2.16). How so? Through our practice we learn to not identify ourselves with our conditions or material things which can cause us pain. Instead, through practice we learn to connect our true Self and understand that we are so much more than our feelings, emotions, conditions, etc. In the end, our stuff doesn’t matter. What really matters is who we really are, i.e. our true nature. Swami Satchidanada writes “This identification with other things is the cause of all of our pain. Instead, if we are just ourselves always, things may change or stay as they are, but they will never cause us pain because the changes will be in the things we posses not in us.”

How do you turn it around if you do feel like your suffering? First, realize that you do have control over your body and that you can and will  feel better. It may not happen right away, but it will happen. A good friend once told me “everything will be okay in the end, and if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” Second, take time for yourself to heal. When your world turns upside down, it becomes even more important to slow down. Your body is trying to tell you to do just that. Make time to rejuvenate and come back to center. Finally, turn your suffering into an offering. Remember, there is always someone out there that is more need than you. Send your suffering out to those in need and take the focus away from your pain and discomfort. I promise you, it will get better. 

I guess you can see I’m a little fired up, so I’m going to have to do something about it. I’m going to have to start saying what’s on my mind and not let this “suffering” thing happen much longer. I’m going to have to start talking to people and educating them on what it means to manage this condition so they feel empowered too.  I’m going to have to put my passion into action and make something happen. 
What do you think of concept that future pain is avoidable? Do you feel you suffer with a condition or rather do you manage it? 


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    Yeah! You go girl! Thanks for sharing and inspiring! Glad you pointed out the suffering language so prevalent in our culture. May we collectively choose to be balanced and empowered.

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    Anonymous says

    In his book, The Heart of Yoga, Desikachar writes, “The aim is to free yourself of preconceptions and avoid actions that you may later regret and that may create new troubles (duhkha) for you.” I believe that, as Yogis, we practice to reduce the suffering in our lives. Through self-study, we come to better know ourselves, which leads to more right action. In this way, future suffering can be avoided. I agree with you, whether we like it (or admit it!), we all have our issues. This is why we practice… Namaste*

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