Find the Source: From Pain + Suffering to Passion + Creativity

We all have pain – physical, mental, emotional – and we all suffer.

You probably know that by now; you’re smart.

What you might NOT know is that the source of your pain is also the source of your passion, creativity, + happiness.

Did I just blow your mind there?

Pain + suffering are a natural part of human life, but that doesn’t mean you need to live + act from a sense of pain + suffering. Once you can identify the source of your suffering, it can lose its power of you. That’s when you “flip the script” (thank you, 90s music) + use your pain to create positive change.

In Yoga philosophy, pain + suffering are said to come from just 3 sources: the tapatraya. Loosely translated as “the three miseries”, all pain + suffering can be linked back to at least 1 of these 3 sources:

  • Adhyatmika [aad-he-aat-me-ka]: Pain + suffering that comes from within ourselves. This includes diseases, physical pain, worry, anxiety, doubt, fear, guilt, shame, low self-esteem, attachments, + expectations.
  • Adhibhautika [aad-he-bow-tee-ka]: Pain + suffering that comes from our relationships with others. This includes friends, family, strangers, animals, “enemies”, sympathy, empathy, physical violence, verbal abuse, + even concepts like the economy – overall, it may seem “out of our control”, but it’s still connected to you + your well-being.
  • Adhidaivika [aad-he-die-vee-ka]: Pain + suffering that comes from all that is truly outside our control. This includes environmental disasters, nature in general, time, growing older – some call it the “unseen hand of fate” – leading to feelings of insecurity, instability, + the overall reminder of our impermanence.

You might be thinking, “OK, that’s great. Now I know where my suffering comes from, but how can I END my suffering!?”

By simply having knowledge of the source of your pain + categorizing it, you’ve already taken control over it. The good news is that’s just the beginning.

Now that you know WHERE your pain + suffering are coming from, you can USE it to fill your life with passion, creativity, + happiness – yes indeed!

Just how do you do that? All you need is two words: pratipaksha bhavanam. You might remember me mentioning pratipaksha bhavanam in a previous post (which you should definitely read, if you haven’t already), but we’re going to take a fresh angle on it this time. Another version of pratipaksha bhavanam is the modern concept of Opportunity Thinking.

Opportunity Thinking (OT) is a skill that you cultivate over time, much like all aspects of Yoga. OT requires you to suspend your negativity so you can think creatively about your pain + suffering. You’re resisting the urge to jump to judgments or conclusions, looking for a fatal flaw, or focusing on just the problem.

Instead, you can use OT to look for the positive side – the “opportunity” within the pain + suffering you’re experiencing. You have to think “outside of the box” of your current mental + emotional patterns, challenging your judgments (which are based on your life up to this point). Broaden your scope, looking for “what could be” – what could be the benefits, opportunities, savings, advantages … etc.

Focus more on what you DO with what happens to you, rather than WHAT has happened to you. [Click to Tweet + Share the Awesome!]

So how do you DO Opportunity Thinking? Simple: just DO it!

The next time you’re feeling less than stellar, open a new document on your computer or grab a piece of paper + something to write with. Now imagine that you just read a post online from someone who’s having the exact issue and/or in the exact situation you are. You’ve never met them before + you probably never will.

Now, how can you help them? How can they improve their situation? Suspend your emotional attachment to the issue + think “outside of the box” about why this could be GOOD instead of misery-inducing. What are the benefits, opportunities, advantages, sources of creative inspiration … etc.?

Be patient with yourself. It takes practice – LOTS of practice (just like Yoga) – but the more you do it, the easier it gets. Eventually, you’ll find yourself OT’ing right when something starts to go south + finding the awesome in every situation.



What’s ONE situation in your life right now that you can “flip the script” on + use Opportunity Thinking to your advantage?

COMMENT below, share your thoughts, + join the conversation!

Also, please share this post with your friends – they’ll love it as much as you do :)

2 comments… add one
  • This post totally spoke to me. This is something I need to practice, daily. You broke down exactly what I struggle with and I need to face it. At the times that I get down, I just need to grab my sketch book and release it. I do not let myself do this enough. There was a time when I did, but I need to get back to that. Thank you so much for sharing this, made my day!

    • Your comment totally made my month, Maddie 🙂 I’m overjoyed that my post spoke to you + gave you a helpful reminder to let your creativity flow – keep your sketch book handy! 😉


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