Identify Your Stressors, Face Your Suffering

“Everything is painful” says Patanjali. I recall reading this sutra (II.15) for the first time and being stricken at its brashness. “Dukha”, translating to pain or suffering, is a constant in the human experience, as everything we do eventually ends, bringing us some level of sorrow. Even delightful things are painful because they create craving for more and, of course, cannot last forever. Often without knowing, we approach every situation in a way that seeks to make pleasurable things last and painful things end. During our time in this life, [many of us] strive to overcome pain associated with the body by doing asana, pranayama, kriya; to resolve the suffering of the mind through meditation, selfless service, self-study; and to face the final agony, death, by embracing eternal life as energy from a universal Source that never dies.

“Parinama tapa samskara dukhaihi guna vrutti virodhachcha dukhameva sarvam vivekinaha’’ (Pada II Sutra 15) ...
An enlightened one like Patanjali knows that dukha is present even in that which feels good. Thus, it seems impossible to avoid or overcome things that pain us. The pleasurable aside, we have all experienced broken bones and broken hearts; adversity, ailment, or abandonment. True suffering takes its tole on the emotional body, but also on the physical body. The stress of going through something, healing from something, and dealing with the wounds or samskaras that linger after, are enough to make us cry or grieve, but also tire out the body and even lead to illness.

In reflecting on my own pains and samskaras, I’ve come to find that key to healing is not pushing onward, as the act of conquering often disregards the negative energy still lodged inside. Rather, it lies in understanding. If we do not identify our stressors, and instead allow them to lay dormant inside of us, the residual effects magnify, even long after the original source.

There are a host of physical and mental reactions to stress. Learning how to detect your triggers, whether they are in or out of your control, will help you manage, or even accept, your reactions so that you can begin to approach situations in a more neutral way. We cannot control externalities or what happens to us, but what we can control is how we interpret and respond to them. In my next post I will share some techniques for detecting stressors and enjoying the ebbs and flows of life, suffering and all.

Martel Catalano