Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

Though many parents do everything in their power to shield them from it, all children will experience pain repeatedly throughout their lives. This is uncontrollable and is actually advantageous in many respects as it teaches us compassion, empathy, strength, resilience, and impermanence, among many other important life skills. Suffering, on the other hand, is unnecessary and can prove quite damaging to any individual when left unchallenged. We all have the ability to keep pain from leading to suffering, though this is not something that we focus on cultivating in our society.

Pain is what happens to us (stubbed toe, friend being mean, embarrassed in public etc.) and suffering is the story that we attach to the pain (“Ouch, of course I would stub my toe! My friend shouldn’t be talking to me like that. Why did I do that, now everyone thinks I’m an idiot!” Etc.) Pain is hard enough on its own without prolonging and compounding it with our thoughts and emotions.

Luckily children are still in a constant state of learning, where they can adapt to changing circumstances and change their own habits more readily than adults. This makes childhood the ideal time to learn healthy, positive habits. These habits will guide your children down the river of their youth passing through their pains towards the ocean of possibilities that lay before them, without getting sucked into the eddies of suffering that can so easily keep them stuck spiraling on the sidelines.

This concept, based on numerous teachings and personal experiences, was the inspiration for my “Natural Resilience Youth Program” where I work with youth to build the resilience that they already have, and to cultivate a positive outlook through various situations.

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