How can we find our inner strength? How can we find the courage within ourselves to, as Churchill famously said “ride out the storm of war” ? In a previous post we looked at what courage really means. Inner courage is an attitude one takes towards pain in life. When faced with miserable set of external situations, what do we do? Do we complain? Do we blame the people around us? Do we blame our fate?
Challenging external situations are inevitable. Every human being goes through some sort of physical or emotional pain in life. When faced with such pain, first we must learn to accept its presence. Suffering is caused when we internally resist this pain. Typical examples are: “Oh! Why is this happening to me?” or “I can’t believe that this person did this to me. Why is this person like this?” or “I am so useless, I can’t even handle such simple things”. In all these situations, we personalize the pain and either engage in self-pity or blame. Both self-pity and blame are born in resistance – we have not come to terms with accepting things and people as they are. But in order to accept external things as they are, we must as always begin internally. We must begin by completely, fully and unequivocally accepting this pain. We must learn to parent our pain. When a baby begin to cry, we don’t get upset or yell at it. We hold the small child in our arms and say “Shh. It’s okay”. Can we begin to take this attitude towards ourselves when we suffer? Can we tell ourselves, “I am really sad, hurt and upset and I accept it fully”? No blame, no questioning. Just simple acceptance.
When we can remain at the feeling level, when we can stay with the sensations of tightness in the chest, in the throat and not start thinking about ourselves or the other person, only then can we cut the link between the external and the internal. Then, we begin to just observe the pain. Notice how it moves in our throat, in our chest. Honor it. This may sound strange, but yes honor it. Respect it, because it is teaching you about yourself. It is bringing you closer to your inner world. And this is an important step in self-awareness.
This process takes time – months or even years. But the journey is a beautiful one of self-discovery. It’s akin to going on a wild mountain path, tough and arduous. But these difficulties, make the path adventurous and brings out our best abilities. The more we can allow the ‘tough’ feelings, the more we being to realize that we are not these challenging situations. We are not even the pain in us. The pain is in us, but it can be tolerated. We can provide it a space to exist in us and be okay with it. We can allow the child to cry in our arms, giving it patient love. Then, something magical begins to happen. We become free. Free of what? Not free from the pain. But free from the mental stories that we build around the pain, that makes the suffering persist in our heads – long after the external event has gone. Every time, we feel ‘weird’, ‘strange’ and ‘uncomfortable’ – give it space – give it love – let it be.
This is courage. And as our courage to face the pain increases, we become that ‘one’ who can give space to pain. We begin to detach. We begin to first see the internal pain and then external people, events and happenings from a distance. We can allow them all to exist in our lives, without taking away our centredness. And we can always come back to this place when life gets too overwhelming. This is true freedom and this is true inner strength.
If there is one thing this pandemic has taught me, it is this – the eternal world in unpredictable, but the inner world is ours – deeply and personally ours. We need to begin to pay more attention to who we are, to our inner world and our needs as human being who are alive. So, let us get into the practice of paying attention to our pain, to all our feelings. And when we realize that we can indeed allow all of them to exist within us with compassionate love then this becomes our pillar of inner strength.