What might be the alternatives to the dysfunctional destructive patterns of pain avoidance to which I am so often drawn?

1. Surrender – I control nothing. It is only realistic to acknowledge the limitations of my power over the forces of life. All my efforts to control the people and circumstances of my life only create more violence. I come into harmony with a reality that is deeper than my pain by letting go of my determination to live without suffering.

Surrender is not pushing away the pain. It is letting go of my need for my life to be different than it is. Attempting to push the pain away, only creates more pain. Surrendering my demand that I should not experience pain creates a base from which positive life-enhancing change becomes a possibility.

2. Poverty – Whatever I might ever achieve or seem to achieve is a pitiful illusion if I think that in any way my achievements increase my “status” as a human being. No achievement, “success”, or accomplishment ever made anyone more than they would have been without that little gold star.  No matter what any of us may achieve on the surface of life, we are all equally poor. I begin to move through the pain when I embrace my poverty and take into consideration the poverty of all other people, especially those by whom I may feel hurt.

3. Obscurity – We will all one day be invisible. No matter how much recognition we may ever receive in this life, we all die. I do not need to be seen, recognized, or known. My name is not important. I am not made more by the fact that you see me. The only recognition that matters is the recognition I give myself by paying attention to my own inner reality and showing up for my life as it is at this moment.

4. Presence – Only by being as fully as possible present to my life will I ever begin to move through the pain I seek to avoid. I need to take to heart the fact that the pain I create by seeking to avoid pain is vastly greater than the pain I seek to avoid. I can be present in this moment. This moment can always be endured. Light does come in the midst of the darkness; it always has.

5. Story – All stories are in part illusions. Anything that sounds like an explanation or justification for pain is at best a partial truth and at worst a dangerous fantasy. The only antidote to the stories I spin in an attempt to avoid my pain is to let them go, or even better stop creating or  listening to them at all. Some stories may be better than other stories. But, in the end, as long as I remain trapped in storyland, there will be no way through the pain.

The key to these five strategies is Acceptance of what is.

This is my life. These are my circumstances. These are the people in my life; they are they way they are; I am powerless to change them. These are the character traits talents, abilities, capacities, and limitations that shape my life. The pain of life is eased when I choose to live within the parameters of reality.

This is not resignation or defeat. It is simply acknowledging the realities of life as they are and choosing to live within what is. I will always make better more life-giving choices when I live within the context of my life as it is rather than demanding that things be different than they are.