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How to Use Life's Pain to Guide You to Your Heart's Desire


We're always being guided. And one of the chief ways that life speaks to us is through discomfort. Pain, in a certain way, is kind of life's messenger, right?


And I remember years ago that when I practiced asana in the morning, that I would get out up and the first thing I would do is I would take a hot shower, because I'm one of those people that after I go to sleep and I wake up in the morning, I feel like somebody snuck into my bedroom and replaced all my muscles with trick muscles that are three inches too short.


So, a lot of pain, a lot of lack of mobility and all of that.


And I've always felt for a long time that, well, I can't really do my asana practice in this state. So, I'm gonna take a hot shower, loosen everything up and, then I can do my asana practice.


And took me many years to realize that this pattern of tightness and pain in my body was a roadmap to what was needed: what parts of my body needed to be attended to, cared for, stretched, opened, breathed into.


And every morning I had been erasing the roadmap and then just blindly doing a bunch of pre-programmed crap that I came to believe is the right thing for me to do because somebody in a book or a robe or a diaper told me that was the right thing to do.

you know what I mean? A clean one, a clean diaper,


and in the same way that I was operating on this pre-programming that I had been taught and trying to force myself to do that because it's the right thing. We do this with our lives.


I speak for myself, I've done this with my life a lot in the past is that I have some pre-programming learned of what postures I'm supposed to do. I'm supposed to do the posture of college. I'm just supposed to do the posture called a respectable job. I'm supposed to do the posture called saving and being fiscally responsible and all of these postures and the fact of the matter is that sometimes what we're being taught isn't really for us in that moment, but the best news is that we're always being guided by largely discomfort.


When you're in the flow and things feel effortless and right, that's you being guided, that this is where you belong and when things are really difficult and uncomfortable and miserable, that's you being guided that maybe you need to adjust course a little bit.


Now, don't take this to mean that you should have a nice free, easy ride because there's difficulties and challenges in every endeavor, right? Life is not supposed to be free of difficulties and challenges, but there is a threshold at which it's becoming more and more clear that maybe you are not where you need to be.


And life is always offering these little clues like even in the midst of one job, when I, when I work with people one on one, and let's say that they're, they're miserable in their job, they come to me with a problem of collapsion, remember collapsion, right?


“I hate my job.”


“Oh, do you?”

“Yes, I hate it.”


“What do you hate about it? Do you hate the fact that you get a paycheck every two weeks?”


“Well, no, not that.”


“Do you hate the building that you work in?”


“No. No, not that.”


“Do you hate the person in the next cubicle?”

“Well, no, not that.”

“Do you hate the fact that you get to go help people solve their problems using your product?”

“Well, no I don't hate that.”

“Do you hate the fact that your boss doesn't appreciate you?”

“That guy’s a f**ker.”


Right? So, they don't hate their job. They hate being under appreciated and being treated wrongly and the feeling that they have in their body is because they're not in the right place with somebody who is growing them and nurturing them and appreciating them and then life is a speaking to them that way.


It's inviting you to find someplace where you're appreciated, but the trick is that you have to deconstruct this collapsed experience.


It's not, the job is not one thing. Your relationship is not one thing where you live is not one thing. And we can go on and on and on and on and on and on. Your family is not one thing, it’s made up of millions of little things.


And when we are getting that guidance from the world, if that guidance is usually about something that is embedded within the whole, it's not about the whole and the degree to which we can get clear on what piece of the whole we're reacting to. The more skillful we can be in our response.

And then with all of that as kind of a bedrock that we circle back to what Andrea was saying,

For many of us, it's naturally and expectedly uncomfortable, to use her phrase, to look in the mirror or to look at my entire life or to look at where I am. Because where I am might not be where I want to be.


I'm not saying this is the truth for Andrea, but I'm just saying that this is comes up a lot. It’s “I don't, I want, I don't want to look in the mirror cause I don't like what I see.” and I'm not just talking about how I see physically.


Obviously, I'm not talking about who I am necessarily, but maybe where I am with my career or maybe where I am with my family or maybe where I am, where they live in the world, or maybe where I am with how people appreciate me or don't appreciate me or see me or don't see me.


And quite honestly to look at that, it breaks my heart.


I don't want to see that about myself because it's so painful. Does this resonate with anybody at one point in your life someplace sometime?


But here's the thing, that pain is your guidance. You want to hear the pain, you want to listen to the pain. You want to make sense of the pain. You want to respond to the pain because that's how you're going to find your way.


Anybody remember Lassie, right? And every God damn week, Timmy is in a different well. Right?


And Timmy falls down a well. And then Lassie, Lassie runs home. She runs across the freeway runs over the mountains. He swims across a Lake and he comes back, finds Pa, Ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff. And then “What Lassie, what, what is it, boy (or girl)? And Lassie’s all: “Timmy’s in a well, got to go rescue Timmy, right?”


But what if Pa said, “somebody shut that damn dog up. Go tie him up the barn.”

So, that’s what we do with our pain, you want to shut it up, tied up in the barn, medicate.

And by Medicaid I don't just mean medication. I mean distract yourself from it.


Go to a movie, have something nice to eat, don't look in the mirror and on and on and on and on.


So, again, this is not for or about Andrea, this is for and about all of us, because we all in this room do this to one degree or another, including myself. And the invitation is to remember that those things that are uncomfortable are speaking to you, and we're invited to listen to them and make sense of them and to respond to them. And an intentional way, if we truly wish to find our place in the world to find the expression that we are put here to make.

I watched my father for a good 40 years or whatever, work off his programming in the job that he was expected to be in: miserable and medicating himself with truckloads of booze for a good 40 years or 45 years or so, until he left. And he refused to look in the mirror because it was painful. It was heartbreakingly painful.


And for a lot of people it's so heartbreakingly painful. They can't bring themselves to do it.


And this is why what you have to offer them is so important, because everybody in here can help people that are in that situation where it's too agonizing and heartbreaking to look in the mirror.


You can help them to step into that process slowly and safely with the guidance and knowledge necessary to begin to just start to listen to the guidance and then begin to just experiment with altering course a little bit left.

No, that's worse. A little bit, right. Oh, that's a little bit better. Okay. That's enough for today. That's enough for this week. Maybe that's enough for this month.


And then a little bit more listening and a little bit more adjusting, a little bit more listening. And then finally, this person who is in this desperate place who maybe may have never gotten out of that desperate place because of the immense pain, agony and lack of clarity is now lifted to a place where they are happy and empowered and making a contribution in this world that they never believed possible.


And I say this from experience because I've done it with thousands of people over the last 25 years, and everybody in this room is positioned to do the same thing for others, which is why this is such an amazing practice and why I'm so grateful for all of you in it. End of message.

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Eric Walrabenstein is a best-selling author, ordained Yogacharya, and nationally-renowned educator in the fields of yoga and mind-body wellness. His work focuses on helping people to practically apply the lesser-known aspects of yoga and mindfulness to solve some of the most urgent and immediate problems of our time.

He is the founder of Yoga Pura, one of Arizona’s largest yoga wellness centers, the creator of the BOOTSTRAP Yoga System developed for the U.S. military, and the creator of the BrightLife Yoga Collective, an online community of seekers, learning to use yoga's ancient wisdom to live their best live. Eric's work has been widely featured in the media including on ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, Success magazine, Yoga Journal, and beyond. Learn more at


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