Thursday, January 6, 2011

Suffering is Optional

Many years ago I took my first yoga class. It was at a Bikram center for "power" yoga. The room was excruciatingly hot. I remember sweat pouring off of my face as I held a "downward dog" position. I had borrowed a mat from the studio and the words "suffering is optional" were written at the top of my mat. As I stared down at those words, arms aching, nose itching, they rang so true to me. That day I returned the mat and didn't suffer through another yoga class for 10 years.

This past summer, I decided to try yoga again. When I stepped into that hot room, and unrolled my mat, I tried to approach the class with an open mind and let go of my suffering. The full saying is actually, "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional." So often we confuse pain and suffering. Just because it hurts, it doesn't mean I have to suffer. Now when downward dog is too much, I rest in child's pose. I let go of my competitive nature and allow my body to recompose itself before attempting more challenging tasks. I breath, re-center and stop for a moment or two. I try to accept my role in my own suffering.

What does this have to do with eduction or technology? I am in the business of asking people to change and try new things. For some people this is painful and they suffer. According to Robert Evans, who recently spoke to our faculty, everyone hates change. We cling to to patterns. We are more attuned to the risk of loss than the possibility of growth and development. And change brings with it loss which can lead to grief and pain. I think it can help to remember and to remind ourselves and our colleagues, that, while change may be painful, suffering is optional. If we can help each other let go of the suffering, maybe we can get something done.

I guess I'm in a philosophical mood today. What are your thoughts on suffering? Does this make sense? I would love to hear from you today. It has been a while since I've gotten many comments here. Please take a moment to share your ideas.


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