Most people expect life to be perfect, without suffering to cope with.
But we live on the earth, not in Wonderland where everything goes smoothly.
Life can be really tough sometimes.
Like a stream, life can be calm and suddenly become rough.
Have you ever come across the Taoist concept of Yin and Yang?
According to Taoism, there is a power in the universe called Tao, which means the “path”.
Tao has 2 sides, Yin and Yang.
As you can see from the above illustration, Yin and Yang are 2 sides of the same coin, one exists in relation to the other, i.e. they complement each other.
The white side has a black seed at its core and the black side a white one.
There is no Yin without Yang because harmony lies in the merging of opposites.
Neither pole is superior to the other.
An increase in one brings a corresponding decrease in the other; a correct balance between the two poles must be kept in order to achieve harmony.
According to the Chinese philosophy, human beings must learn to cope with both sides and have a balanced life.
Taoists believe that by living in harmony with the “path”, the Tao, human beings will not have to fight against the universe’s natural flow.
Taoists say: “The wise person is flexible like water”.
People must accept and adapt to this dualism, there is not white, without black!
This is a Universal principle and applies to everything.
Everything contains the seed of its opposite!
Therefore there is no pleasure without suffering either.
So, even if we always look for pleasure, we must accept that we will inevitably go through pain from time to time.
And we must not ignore our sufferings by pretending they don’t exist, but accept them and learn how to live with them.
Only when you become aware that there is no pleasure without pain can you learn to enjoy pleasure and accept pain!
Learning to accept pain as a prerequisite to enjoying pleasure is not a walk in the park, but maybe the following metaphor can ease this “challenge”.
THE BALL IN THE BOX
Lauren Herschel is a woman that went through terrible grief when her father died.
For a long time she tried to deny her pain, but the more she did it, the more she suffered.
Anytime the thought of her father came through her mind, it was always as painful as the first time, if not more.
Then, thanks to her psychiatrist, who explained to her a simple but enlightening metaphor, she learned how to accept and cope with her grief.
This metaphor is very useful to understand also why we can suffer for an event that occurred a long time ago.
The psychiatrist drew a box on a white paper, then inside it, he drew a ball.
On one of the four sides of the box, the doctor drew a red button.
The box represents our life.
The ball and the red button represent the pain that stems from the contact between the ball and the red button.
The therapist told Lauren that pain accompanies us throughout our life.
It’s inevitable that when we live and we move through life the “ball” hits the “button”, and so we will experience pain.
We cannot predict when and how this will happen, because what triggers pain is unpredictable and differs from one person to another.
It might be a song, a movie, a dish that a person you loved used to make, etc.
What I want to point out is that sooner or later the ball will hit the red button and this will cause you emotional discomfort such as sadness, grief, loneliness, anger, etc.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
You have 2 options:
1)Staying still, if you don’t move the ball will hardly ever hit the button, but this will result in not living, just surviving.
It will mean that the fear of pain has power over you, that you are controlled by it.
And this happens when you don’t want to recognise and accept pain when you try to deny it.
By doing that unfortunately you are doomed to live a mediocre and unmeaningful life.
You will prevent yourself from exploring the endless opportunities that can turn up during your journey on the earth.
What’s more, the few times that the ball will hit the button, the pain experienced will be unbearable.
Can you “live” like that?
2)Becoming aware that life is never flat, that pain is part of our existence and accepting it allows you to keep moving forward without being afraid of the sufferings you can encounter.
This way you fully enjoy every aspect of your life, even when tough and painful moments occur.
What’s more, the more you accept pain, the more you will get used to it, and the less it will hurt you.
The big ball that once took up almost the whole box will become smaller and smaller, and less likely to hit the button.
At this point, even if you still experience pain, it will be much more bearable.
Don’t you think it is much better to live and cope with the pain you may experience than to survive by trying to avoid it?
WHAT CAN YOU LEARN FROM THIS METAPHOR?
Only by living life without the fear of experiencing pain can you be fully alive.
Only by becoming aware that pain and pleasure are two sides of the same coin, that they coexist, and complement each other, will you learn to accept pain.
Only by accepting pain will you be able to make the “ball” smaller and will you be able to cope with the pain triggered by the ball hitting the button.
Only by being flexible and adaptable to what life will present you with, will you be able to live up to your fullest potential.
“Whatever is flexible and flowing will tend to grow, whatever is rigid and blocked will wither and die” - Tao Te Ching
Stop being worried about the pain and all the negative emotions you might encounter during your journey in life.
Keep moving forward regardless of how you will feel in the tough moments, you will end up enjoying more the upsides of life because you will have gone through hell and you will have learned how to cope with it.
And you will eventually be able to achieve your goals in life.
I used to just survive for most of my life, I was just held back by the fear of the pain I might experience.
But once I started accepting and dealing with it I took complete control of my life, without allowing the fear of pain to have control over me.
Since I started moving forward accepting fear as part of my life I have been able to achieve a target that I had never hit before, and of course, in this process, I have grown and so has my self-confidence.
And now that I have got momentum I am even more willing to keep pushing forward and continuously improve and become a better version of myself.
Because at the end of the day, when you are not held back by fears, you can only progress and grow.
Let me ask you: Are you ready to accept your past, present, and future pain in order to write a new chapter in your life?