I’ve talked about a lot of the discomforts and pains that can come up on this blog many times before. As I’ve often said, you can feel discomfort in any part of your body or energy field. All of you is embraced by a spiritual awakening. Where you are in resistance to that embrace and to your own divine energy is where you will experience pain.

One point that I haven’t emphasized as much is the simple physiological response of the body to perceived threats. When we interpret something as a threat to our emotions, intellects, egos, and bodies, there is typically a tensing in the body. Our body readies itself to defend itself, to run away, or to freeze/hide from the issue. I’m sure many of you have already identified your typical responses to upset situations. You may try to attack an issue or another person mentally. Some people runaway emotionally. Some people simply freeze up physically and become non-responsive. There are many iterations of this response, and they are all unique to your upbringing and genetic predisposition.

But in terms of letting go of issues that are emerging, this response adds pain on top of pain. It is closing a door in front of the door that is slowly and sometimes agonizingly be pulled open. As such, it stops the healing and your spiritual growth. In this way, we have to learn how to unlearn our physiological processes that try to fend off the emerging discomfort–whatever it may be–to fully embrace it and let it go.

Shutting Yourself Down

I’m not going to try and explain the human body, and for those of you who find this a fascinating topic, I encourage you to research about how the human body responds under stress. I mainly want to emphasize the body is sacred and is very much involved in the whole spiritual process as much as anything else. How could it not be?

I say this to help break some of you out of the idea of mind over body. Mind is never over body. In that mentality, we are very deluded and can cause our bodies immense and unnecessary suffering trying to get the body to conform to ideas. The mind is a product of the body, specifically the brain–at least in part. It may think it rules the body, but it also governed by the body. And if the body is triggered by a deeper instinctual process to shut down, the flow of things–including thought–will stop right there.

Which is where many people are in life–they’re shutdown to a wide variety of degrees. Two of the ways people shutdown are when they feel under threat or if they are attempting to hold onto something. What people can try to hold onto is vast. It includes an ideal body image, a certain amount of wealth, a certain kind of relationship with oneself or another, and many other things that we think we can hold onto. In holding on, we are stopping the flow of life, and we are shutting down our own spiritual growth. This tendency walks right into awakening with us, and it is something we have to consciously unlearn.

Breathing Into the Pain

Because we don’t like pain, we typically want to get away from it. We don’t want to receive it and be with it. We don’t want to listen to it, and we certainly don’t want it to hang around. But when we are avoiding, attacking, or shutting down, this keeps the pain around. So we don’t actually get what we really want–which is to release it.

Hence breathing into pain is a huge ally. It does a couple of important things. For starters, it actively teaches the body new lessons about how to behave with stressful situations. By breathing into difficult moments, we can stay fluid, clear, and engaged with life. If we lose our breath and unconsciously stop breathing, we are building up more and more tension. This makes us feel worse and more likely to go back to whatever our most habitual base pattern is. For example, if someone’s base pattern is to “attack” something or someone when threatened, then this person will get louder and more violent with the increasing internal tension. This is all part of an unconscious attempt to get rid of pain, most of which is being blamed and projected onto the external situation or person.

But we are spiritual people, right? Some of us are even awake. To continue to grow and heal, we learn to breathe into difficult moments and difficult parts of our inner healing. And this promotes a level of healing and self-awareness that radically changes how we behave and function in the world.

For more on a variety of aspects of physical pain, you can also check out this posts:

Physical Rigors of Spiritual Awakening

How to Find and Release Physical Pain During a Spiritual Awakening

Phantom Physical Pains and Spiritual Awakening

Transforming Into Conscious People

I often make the distinction between awake and unawake, conscious and unconscious. Awakening is in the world of nonduality. It’s always here, and when that switch goes on for someone, it is on. Consciousness is part of duality. We can become more conscious or less. An awakened person can actually be very unconscious. For example, the light is on in the room, but they have no inclination to clean up the garbage in that inner room. They’re more committed to their old life than to the truth they can now see. This happens. A person who isn’t awake can be more conscious than an awakened person who doesn’t embrace the conscious path–the path of gradually growing and learning about oneself. This is because someone who is highly conscious has been cleaning up their inner space as best they can and fostering spiritual growth. This difference between types of  awareness and engagement with spirituality makes for some very interestingly wise and ignorant spiritual people.

So with all that said, undoing old instinctual and family patterns (because they’re typically coming out of family or whoever was most present for you during your upbringing) is when the rubber really hits the road. That’s when you really transform in a lasting and sustainable way. Up until then, it’s been like cutting off part of the weed. You dealt with the mind, so you cut off the weed’s flower. You dealt with the heart, so you cut it down to the ground. Now, you’re dealing with the body. You’re going for the roots, and in clearing this space, some new healthy and more natural pattern for you can grow up. And getting into the roots is often uncomfortable by itself, but the more conscious someone is, the more they understand how much freedom is to be gained through engaging with this old pain and working on letting go of physical patterns.

Delving Deeper Into Unconscious Physical Resistance

Clearly, you can see the importance of working with the body and helping it let go of these old unconscious resistance patterns. The sooner you can get to this kind of re-wiring, the easier your awakening or general spiritual growth will be. It will also help you to not feel like you just keep dealing with the same issue again and again. In many respects, that is to be expected. Issues have typically proliferated all over people’s beings. They’re veritable spiderwebs, and we’re the spiders who’ve been entangling ourselves. But in disentangling things, the web really falls apart the cleaner and clearer your body is. Keeping it relaxed whenever you are processing a deeply stressful and upsetting issue can be quite challenging, but it is really important. It becomes a tool that you can use throughout the rest of your life so that you aren’t traumatized or otherwise upset by future challenging situations and then create new issues that you hold onto and then have to dig out later.

With all that said, the deeper you go into the body, the more relaxation becomes one of the most powerful spiritual tools there is . The type or relaxation that works for different elements of the body varies by the issue, the body type, the part of the body, and where you are in your spiritual growth. So everything from massage to rolfing to lying on your coach for hours to meditating in nature to listening to sound healing music to many other things can be useful allies to de-program the fear responses from your body as other issues emerge. The more you do this, the more the body remembers how to do this. While the body can take a lot of work to get moving in a new direction, once it is taught these things, it tends to want to stay there. That’s the gift of the body. It is a very stable level of consciousness, and when it’s “enlightened” so to speak, it will tend to want to stay clear, relaxed, and open in its enlightenment.

The Slow Patient Path of the Body

But as I’ve essentially alluded to, the body doesn’t tend to move quickly. These old fight-flight-freeze tendencies have worked for millenia for human beings and our pre-human ancestors. They got us to where we are today, and we can honor them for that. But now, a lot of those processes do not serve much of a purpose in our daily life, and along with the grasping and clinging of the mind, the combination has turned people’s bodies and energies into emotional and physical garbage dumps. We have to undo that, and undoing that is often not comfortable. Reliving and releasing old pain is not comfortable. But it is immensely freeing. So while you are likely to feel discomfort when you are newly awakened or where ever you are in your spiritual growth or healing, that discomfort will not last, and you can let go of old issues to find greater peace and serenity in your body.


I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.

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