I picked up this little 125-page book recently and I’m just about done with it. It’s one of those pocket-sized volumes that looks like it should be a quick page-turner but instead encourages you to slow down and spend some time thinking about the “note” you just read. Here’s my favorite one so far, entitled Don’t Run Away, which is applicable in so many areas of our lives:
To try to run away from suffering is not wise. To stay with it, to look deeply into it, and to make good use of it, is what we should do. It is by looking deeply into the nature of suffering that we discover the path of transformation and healing. Without suffering, there is no path to happiness. We can even speak about the goodness of suffering because suffering helps us to learn and grow.
This one resonated when I read it—and it had nothing to do with suffering through a rough patch in a race (though I’ve certainly had my fair share of those moments). I immediately thought of the sudden passing of my Mom almost 10 years ago from a brain aneurysm, the most traumatic—but transformative—experience of my life. At the time it happened, there was shock, disbelief, a lack of understanding, and a lot of unanswered questions. But rather than accepting the pain of her loss, I instead tried to push it away. I tried to avoid suffering at all costs. But as Thich Nhat Hanh writes in the book, this wasn’t a smart move and didn’t really help me. It was only when I allowed myself to be vulnerable, and embrace the full magnitude of my Mom’s death, that I began to heal, grow, and gain new perspective from it. Suffering through the loss of the most important person in my life, and choosing to make good use of the pain rather than avoiding it, led to an increased appreciation for my family and friends, not to mention a deepened understanding of the shortness and fragility of our existence, and a state of contentment I wouldn’t have come to know otherwise.
So next time you’re suffering—whatever form it may take—take Hanh’s advice: stay with it, look deeply into it, and let it help you find happiness, insight, and new perspective.