Why would anyone want to practice staying with pain? This was a question raised by another student in my mindfulness teacher certification program. He was specifically referring to the pain that comes from sitting on a meditation cushion for an extended amount of time. "Why not just move? Isn't it stupid to sit in pain when you can so easily obtain relief?"
Sounded reasonable to me.
Jack Kornfield wisely responded, "We practice sitting in pain because there may come a time when we cannot move."
There is value in painful practice. That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do.
This lesson beautifully coincided with a lecture I listened to later in the day by Seth Godin. He spoke about the importance of training. For a person who has not trained, running a marathon is a painful endeavor. For those who practice and train, a marathon becomes less painful. In fact, those who practice and train find them rewarding enough to do multiple marathons per year.
Seth Godin writes daily. He has for years. It's no longer hard for him. Many would be writers commence, but give up because it's too hard. The process of writing is painful. But any skill takes time and practice to develop.
Is this the case with pain? Does pain become less painful with practice, or is our capacity to bear pain increased?
Developing our painful practice is valuable for us and others. We develop our ability to hold our pain, and the pain of others, with grace and compassion. There will come times when we cannot run from our pain. There will be times when others will need us to sit with them in their pain. I want to have trained my pain so that I can be a source of strength and grace for myself and others in those painful, precious moments.
There is gain in pain. I won't run from pain--I'll stay and train so that when race day comes, I'm ready to run!