Pain is inevitable in this life. If there is a body, there is pain. Be it physical, emotional or mental, the potential for pain awaits us at every turn.

Why? Why is pain inevitable? The great poet Kahlil Gibran said, “Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.” Pain accompanies the experience of realizing our own Truth. Pain awakens us to our own spiritual path. Want to know where you are on your path to full self awareness? Look at how you deal with your pain. Our own individual experience of Self love awakens through shedding the layers of denial and illusion that keep us numb; numb to our pain and therefore love. Like the snake shedding it’s skin, shedding our illusions is painful because we have to rub up against the pillars of our sacred beliefs and assumptions (disguised as Truth) that we cling to so dearly: our need for love and acceptance, our perceived financial security, our fleeting self esteem, the list goes on and on and on.

Recently I met a student who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. When we last spoke she told me of the tremendous pain she lived with 24/7 after learning of her partner’s infidelity. Initially, her mind screamed, “Leave Him”! Everywhere she turned: family and friends, advice columns and even spiritual teachers echoed this “truth”. But here was her rub- this wasn’t the first time this had happened in her life. She had already left husband number one for his infidelity and that obviously didn’t prevent it from happening with number two, Track That! Her pain was so present in our conversation that it awakened me to my own brushes with unyielding pain. I watched the familiar dance between grief and anger, resentment and the longing to forgive. What can you say to someone when they are in the thick of it all? Unyielding pain overwhelms us, confirms our powerlessness and opens the mind to the ravages past pain has left on our soul.

When we met again, I was pulled into her eyes. The white halo around her brilliant blue irises held me in her gaze. Strong and yet soft, no words were needed to convey the wisdom and joy left in the wake of her battle and subsequent surrender to her pain. When she finally spoke, she mused about the transformation as only one who has shed her own skins could. “I am totally different,” spoken silently, almost to herself. “We’re still together, but it’s different now. We laugh like we have never laughed, even before the affair. He listens now, and so do I. Oh, I’ll still keep him up all night with the questions: Why, When, Where, How? But he answers, honestly and he doesn’t gripe about me keeping him up til morning. I love him for that and I love me for daring to keep asking. I don’t know when we’ll be finally over it, but I don’t think of that. I love that we have gone through this together. It isn’t pretty, but we have gone through it together.”

She ended by sharing pain’s ultimate gift: “we’re going through it together.” Her pain opened her to new ways of seeing the purpose of her suffering. She recognized that her journey was benefitting her adult children and friends who now sought out her advice and wisdom for thier own relationships. She was able to see a new legacy of marriage that will be passed down to her  her grand-kids. “All this is happening,” she said in closing, “because I  choose to be with the pain instead of running from it.”

When we surrender our heart to pain’s firm grip, we see our story shaped into our precious scripture for others to study and grow through witnessing. We are never alone, there are always others watching and learning from how we walk our path, especially our paths of pain.

Think about it. When have you truly known that you were alive? When you were in love and when you were in pain. For most of us our path into aliveness flowed in that order- love led to pain. That is until we embrace the lessons like this student- true love cannot be found outside in the arms of anyone, only inside our own self, in our own Heart. Pain is what releases our grip on that which is not true and opens us to embrace what is left behind, our own Self- that is true love. What is left after pain pries our fingers free from all that is not us? love, true love. Like an impression burned into the record of our life, once we are free from the grasping, clinging, bargaining, and burning, love plays sweetly for us.

Love is what is left in the wake of embracing our constant companion- pain. Until then, Love Hurts. The choice is ours.