BEating Pain

Can you remember a time you avoided something painful?  Did avoiding it serve you?  Why/How?

Something tells me almost one hundred percent of folks reading this post have. I know I have. I’ve side-stepped many challenging scenarios in my life.  Avoidance shows up in physical form during my trail-running hobby all the time.  In fact, it happened on a recent trail run. The way I handled it served me well.

On that morning I lingered on the mountain for hours traveling from sea level to the summit at 2500 feet and back down.  I faced pain and small-lung-itis on all the steep sections of the first half ascent.  Over and over again, negative thought storms and stopping to walk was my reaction.

Almost an hour in, during one of the most painful trail sections, I decided to turn into the pain and meet it head on.  My knee was pinging, my lungs were burning, my negative self talk was getting boisterous yet I stayed in it.  Instead of stopping to walk I dug deep.  I refocused on my breath.  I let myself feel the pain… Metabolized it and kept moving.  I found a landmark up ahead and didn’t walk until I reached it.  I savored the small victory and associated bliss surge.



An hour or so later I reflected on the victory.  I realized that I hadn’t ignored the pain, I’d met it.  Instead of being too hard on myself for being a little out of hill running shape or too easy on myself and walking or stopping, I greeted the pain and transitioned it into fuel.  It’s amazing how profound even the small victories during a morning run in the trees can be.

I don’t have any races to win anytime soon.  I work hard to keep my ego out of my trail hobbies.  I couldn’t care less how fast “the Jones” are this year.

Greeting and transforming vs. avoiding pain served me well that day.  I know I’ll hurt even less on my next run because I greeted the pain and kept moving.  My lungs will feel larger.  My resiliency will be heightened.

The metaphorical life lessons I experience trail-running are some of my favorite life’s gifts.  Now if I can just continue to greet emotional, spiritual and intellectual pain in a similarly brave, graceful and beneficial way. 🙂

Assignment:  Turn in to the next pain storm you encounter.  Journal about it lots after the situation plays out.  Did you avoid or greet or both?

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Bryan Breckenridge