By Rhea Rego
Four minutes and the pain will pass. This profound sentence from Chiku, Shashi’s incredibly wise and mature five-year-old has taught me so much about resilience and sitting with the pain until it passes.
While enthusiastically pedalling on the rocky road to the Learning Centre one evening, Chiku and his cycle had a terrible tumble. He crumpled up into a ball and started to cry. I picked him up, brushed off the dirt, and we went and sat by the side of the road together. I could tell he was in a great deal of pain, so I asked him if he wanted to go home. “No”, he said. “Let’s just sit here for four minutes. I’ll be okay after that.”
And indeed he was. After a few minutes, despite a badly grazed knee, he got up and we continued our evening jaunt to the Learning Centre.
Being a Highly Sensitive Person, pain is a part of my everyday life. The things around me affect me so deeply: my personal pain, the pain of the people around me and that of the world: it all accumulates into one giant boulder that feels too heavy to carry. The only way I know how to cope with it is to distract myself. I talk to my friends, throw myself into my work, listen to happy music, or attempt to fill the deep void inside of me with all the food I can find. But band-aids don’t fix bullet holes and my bullet-ridden body is tired. If we don’t really feel our emotions, we tend to suppress them and they manifest in twisted, often unrecognisable ways. They show up in our bodies as anxiety, stress, or depression, of which I feel all three. And the harder I try to get rid of the pain, the longer it stays.
Chiku taught me a valuable life lesson that day. It’s important to sit with the pain until it passes. Pain is inevitable, and the only way is through.
It’s a human tendency to seek pleasure and avoid pain. It’s innate in us to turn away from what hurts and to run back to safety. Which is why my first instinct was to ask him if he wanted to go home when he was hurt. But this little one, wise beyond his years, knew that he needed to sit through the pain.
Katie Kacvinsky, the author of the book Awaken writes:
“Pain’s like water. It finds a way to push through any seal. There’s no way to stop it. Sometimes you have to let yourself sink inside of it before you can learn how to swim to the surface.”
So thanks to Chiku, I’m not running away from pain any longer. I’m going to sit with it, be it for four minutes, four months, or four years. There is no timeline for when I should be over these emotions. I am learning to give myself permission to feel the pain. No more resistance. To stay present, acknowledge it, accept it, listen to it, and breathe through it, even though it’s overwhelming. To feel it, in all its excruciating messiness, is to heal it.