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Spiritual bypassing is a concept relating to the idea that we should feel good all the time. It’s a nice thought until drawn to its logical conclusion. Reality is that we live in a dual universe where even roses have thorns.

Ignoring the thorns only leads to being cut and eventually having to deal with their inevitable sting anyway. I’d submit the better practice is to learn to lean into facing life’s thorns head on, so that we are best equipped not only for damage mitigation, but so that we most fully enjoy life and provide benefit to those around us.

Many years ago I read a book titled “The Gift of Pain.” The author, Dr. Paul Brand, was an orthopedic surgeon who specialized in leprosy and spent many years treating patients in Africa. The startling conclusion he made was that it wasn’t really the disease that caused its sufferers to lose their limbs. To the contrary, it was that the disease prevented those who had it from feeling pain. This inability to feel pain then caused people to do things like walk around with a tree limb stuck in their foot and not knowing it was there, allowing it to become severely infected.

He calls it the “gift of pain” because he said that pain is our body’s signal to the brain that there is something going on that’s in need of our attention. Our human brains then have the capacity to decide to choose again and course correct. Indeed that is a gift.

Yet our culture has become collectively pain intolerant. I have myself been guilty of it. If it’s a busy day and my head aches, it’s much easier to pop an Advil and carry on, versus feeling sub par and not as productive. Even though I know intellectually that the Advil is going to negatively impact my gut microbiome and thus overall mood and health, which I’ve been working for years to improve. A vicious cycle.

So how do we step of the merry-go-round of pain aversion and pleasure seeking? Great question without a pleasant answer. In yoga we talk about our “shadow side.” It’s easy to sit with the happy and sunny. But it takes a strong resolve and discipline to learn to sit with our darkness.

That’s why many of us have a hard time being alone or sitting comfortably in silence. As though the boogeyman lives within our head and if it gets too quiet or unpleasant we might be overcome by the darkness.

However, through practice we can learn to train our brain and become masters of our inner universe. The shadow side is only that, a shadow. While it follows us around, it isn’t actually who we are. It’s just a part of this plane of existence.

And remember: When Peter Pan cut his shadow off and left it completely, he wound up missing it terribly to the point that he went back to search for it and sew it back on to feel whole again.

As always, please feel free to contact me through my criminal defense firm’s site at www.shanastein.com/contact