Tag Archives: pain

Letting go


So much of our pain is caused by holding on – to feelings, possessions, people (who we often treat as if they are possessions).  If we could learn to let go more easily, accepting that everything changes and evolves over time, perhaps even making room for a new and equally exciting phase of our lives, we would have an easier time emotionally. And when the pain does feel too much to bear, we allow ourselves to truly feel the intensity of that pain so that it can, in its own time, lessen its grip on our heart. 

Pema Chodron talks of the way in which pain wakes us up, cracking us open with the ‘sheer force of whatever energy arises’ (‘When Things Fall Apart’ p23) and allowing us to recognise the oneness between us all, fostering our growing sense of compassion – maitri, or loving-kindness.

I have just finished reading a short story by Rachel Joyce, ‘A Faraway Smell of Lemon’, which beautifully evokes the way in which we need to open ourselves to the pain of changes we might never have chosen, to accept the fundamental impermanence of everything in our lives. I don’t want to spoil the story, but would love to include a quote from the end of the story, where the protagonist is reflecting that:

No matter how much she rails,  some things are gone forever….. So why, then, do we behave as if everything we have blessed with our loving should be ours for keeps? It is enough to have tiptoed to that space beyond the skin, beyond the nerve endings,  and to have glimpsed things that beforehand we only half knew.

This is a very short story but one which it is worth taking time over. There are great insights too into the way mindfulness of our everyday activities can help us by providing an anchor in times of difficulty, soothing a troubled and pained mind.



Sometimes we don’t feel very brave.  We admire others who we consider to be much more courageous  than ourselves.  But we commonly confuse feeling scared with a lack of courage.  Whereas if you really think about it, we can only show true courage and act bravely if we do feel fear.

Growing up, and into my adult life, I was scared of spiders.  I would freeze if I saw one, and, if at all possible, I would ask  someone else to remove it for me.  I certainly wasn’t brave around a spider!  One day, many years ago now, a colleague removed a huge spider from my office, just letting it walk onto her hand and carrying it outside.  I considered her to be really brave!  But she disagreed, and explained that she really liked spiders, so for her to pick one up was no more  brave than it would be for me to stroke a cat.

So if we have no fear, then we do not need bravery.  When I first started to deal with spiders, removing them from my home because my family disliked them even more than me, I needed quite a lot of courage!  I had to steel myself to deal with them, whilst trying not to show my fear in front of my young son.  We lived at the time in a very old converted barn, with lots of nooks and crannies where the creatures crept in, and so I got plenty of practice!  One of them was so large that I could hear it walking down the curtain behind my head whilst I was holding my sleeping baby.  It took a fair amount of courage to walk slowly and calmly upstairs and lay my son down in his cot before coming back to deal with that one!

Over the years, I have learnt to deal with spiders pretty well.  I no longer feel so scared of them, and I have needed correspondingly less courage to remove them from my home.  As a result, my son now carefully removes all manner of  creepy-crawlies and places them carefully into the garden, with no sign of fear.  Because, of course, our fears can be learnt from others.

But there are very few of us who have no fear.  Even the most daredevil, thrill-seeking, extreme sports enthusiast (can you tell where my own fears still skulk?!) will at some point face a fear of their own.  For some of us, that fear may revolve around carrying on our daily lives when we really want to run and hide from the world,  nursing our hurts and pain.  We may be faced with challenges to our health, or to our relationships,  which appear to totally overwhelm us and yet we survive through small daily acts of courage. There won’t be any awards or medals given out for this type of bravery, and only we know what we have had to overcome in the small hours of the night, but overcome them  we somehow do. Without applause or recognition, but none- the -less important for it being a private and personal battle.