05/29/2015 07:54 am ET Updated May 29, 2016

When Sorrow Attacks: Three Conscious Ways to Face Your Pain


You may have heard the old hunter's adage, "Some days you get the bear. Some days the bear gets you."

There are rules when it comes to grizzly bears. If you trespass on their territory or come near their cubs, they will attack. Unfortunately, human beings often wander into their deadly path without knowing it.

Like the bear, your sorrow, pain, and grief can also strike when you least expect them. Maybe you're suffering through a sudden breakup, the loss of a job, or a falling out with a friend. You're hurt, saddened, and in pain. You attempt to fight these feelings by constantly replaying the events in your head or try to run away from your agony altogether. Either way, your heartache continues to bear down, preventing you from living your life in harmony.

Whether you're stuck in misery or sprinting from the ache of disappointment, it's time to deal with the pain as you would a charging grizzly - with courage, kindness, and smarts.

A grizzly is able to run faster than 30 miles an hour so chances are you cannot outrun the bear. Running away from an uncomfortable issue, shutting down your feelings, or numbing your sorrow with other vices will all catch up to you sooner or later. When they do, your avoidance of the inevitable will only have made matters worse. Just as you can't outrun a grizzly bear, you can't outrun your heartbreak. Your energy is better spent facing your sadness and treating yourself with love, not attempting an impossible escape.

If confronted by a grizzly, resistance is useless. Your only option is surrender to what's happening. Lie flat, stay quiet, don't move. Similarly, when you're at your breaking point, hit the ground and fully experience what you are feeling. Like a bear's powerful claws, life's disappointments and setbacks can be excruciating. But if you let the hurt wash through you and accept that sorrow is a part of living, your suffering will be more manageable. When you accept your circumstances and stop trying to dominate your misery, the healing process can begin.

Once the bear backs off, stay quiet and motionless. Grizzlies will often watch from a distance and return if they see movement. Sadness can do the same thing. You may think we are out of the woods and can resume our normal routine without anyone knowing your anguish. However pretending you're okay when you're not only makes the discomfort return stronger than before. It's important to make room for stillness and spaciousness during tough times, so you're able to experience everything you need to feel. Be patient. Your heart will tell you when it's safe to move on.

Courageously facing your pain can be terrifying. However, when you allow your past and present sorrows to flow through you, pain releases its grip. You're then free to walk away with greater awareness, love, and gratitude for the lessons that came from your experience.

Some days you will indeed get the bear, but the bear does not have to get you.