The title of today’s blog is a quote that has been attributed to many notable talking heads, including the Dali Lama.  And it’s the events of last week that really brought it home for me, as in the wee hours of Friday morning, when I should have been peacefully sleeping, I was awakened by a massive migraine attack, complete with nausea and all the fun things a migraine can throw one’s way.  The bottom line – it was an unrelenting 24 hours of hell.  And not just on the physical front.  Especially not only on the physical front.  In-between unsteady trips to the bathroom my mind was awash with anxiety. 

What’s going to happen to all my client appointments tomorrow? 


What’s going to happen to my blog I need to finish and get out by the end of the week? 

Not happening.

What if this wrecks my business?  Clients are going to think I’m unreliable.  How am I supposed to plan and manage my engagements when something like this can strike without a moment’s notice?

What if this puts undue stain on my marriage?  Me being up keeps him up.  How much can my husband really take? 

It left me drained, emotionally and physically, but also quite reflective.  Because at some point, in the midst of all the strife, strain and obsessive worrying, I realized I had a choice.  Not a choice of whether I get to have migraines – unfortunately I don’t have that kind of power!  But a choice on what perspective I get to take on the situation.  And it’s the perspective I take that leads directly to how much suffering I must endure.

What does it mean to suffer?

To break this down, let’s think about what suffering means.  It’s worth noodling on this considering the Buddha said many a time that “life is suffering.”  On the surface of it, not the most upbeat way to view our journey around planet earth.  But it depends on how you look at it.  I’ve often defined suffering as “resistance to what is.”  Resistance creates pressure.  And pressure creates stress.  And so, when folks enter my virtual office these days and say things like they’re burned out and stressed out, I believe them.  They are.  But I also say the solution lies not so much in having more time in the day to address a never-ending list of to-dos, but more in the way we manage our energy relative to the problems life throws our way.  Because unfortunately, like it or not, life will throw us problems.  That’s the one thing we can always count on.  The real problem is we think we shouldn’t have problems.  And therefore, we spend a lot of time resisting said problems, which creates a lot of suffering.

Recognize any of these?

  • This shouldn’t be happening / have happened to me.
  • It ought to / should have been different.
  • If only…
  • It’s just…

If only I’d had a better childhood, then I wouldn’t be navigating all the difficulty I am right now.

They were wrong to fire me.  If they had really valued me, things would be different.

This job isn’t what I thought it was going to be. This isn’t what I signed up for!

If only I could go back in time, I’d have handled that situation so differently.

Why is this happening to me?  This always happens to me!

I know my mother-in-law can be overbearing.  It’s just I wish so much she would respect me.

Despite what you may have been told by your grandmother – The road to hell isn’t paved with good intentions.  It’s paved with unmet expectations.  Or in other words, resistance to what is. 

What can I accept in this moment?

Or in my case, resistance to being sick.  But the beautiful thing about resistance is we are the ones that are creating it.  And so, it logically follows we are the ones that can let it go.  That’s a power we do have.  Letting go.  As opposed to trying to control the stimulus which caused the resistance in the first place, which is about as productive as trying to push a massive rock up a hill.  (Just ask Sisyphus if you don’t believe me…)  The interesting thing is, once I recognized my resistance to the pain and accepted it as it was, my mind quieted and while the pain was still there, the suffering stopped.  And I want to point out that acceptance is not the same as resignation.  I’m still going to work on managing this condition, finding the root cause, seeking out another opinion and additional counsel.  But I have a lot more energy and mental clarity to do so when I’m not resisting what is.

In that moment, when I recognized the resistance and moved to acceptance, the obsessive, anxiety ridden thoughts stopped.  And what opened instead in the space was compassion.  Compassion for myself.  And not just for myself – compassion for anyone who has ever felt the pain and suffering of a chronic condition.  Compassion for my clients, some of whom have health challenges of their own.  And an interconnectedness with others, knowing that I’m not alone in this struggle.  Knowing that I am part of something so much bigger than myself and my own pain and thinking about the opportunity this condition gives me to tap into empathy for myself and others.

Coaching questions for thought:

  • What in your life are you currently resisting and by doing so creating unnecessary suffering?  Think about the above list – the shoulds, shouldn’t, ought tos, if onlys or I justs.
  • What would it mean to accept the situation, person or event, just as it is?
  • What energy would that free up? 

Shelley Pernot is a career and leadership coach who is passionate about helping her clients develop clarity, confidence, and compassion for self.  She is particularly adept at working with high performing women who are hard on themselves.  Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!

  1. Marilyn Orr February 27, 2024 at 4:42 pm

    Beautiful and insightful!