The journey within

Transforming pain into purpose: How I find liberation through my discomfort

Understanding the nature of pain can help us better understand our work and daily discourse.


Pain evokes numerous states of consciousness. Magnificent and unyielding, it can lead to great awakenings. It can follow us throughout our lives, as if having a consciousness of its own.

Pain expands and contracts as we observe the fluidity and stagnancy of its nature. Sometimes it starts in a small place only to vibrate across many body parts within a few seconds. Pain has the capacity to almost grasp us by our throats, whispering softly and firmly to bring our entire awareness to it, while our minds wish to be liberated from its confinement.

However, there can be a sacredness in such discomfort. It pulls us from our very highs back into the reality of humanity and suffering. The path to liberation is ultimately moving through the pain and not past it. Understanding the nature of pain can help us better understand our work and daily discourse. Through pain, we can slowly unravel the reasons behind why we do the things we do and why we love what we love.

We all have our own stories—the very reason we are the way we are, why our hearts move toward something or away from it. What connects us all are experiences and what happens to our bodies through those experiences. Trauma and pain are not from the events themselves—rather, they are what happens within us as a result of those experiences.

In many ways, that is how we learn to empathize with many stories from various generations previously and to come. Although we don’t all share lived experiences, we share the capacity to feel and have an awareness of what others are going through.

Working through the transformation

How we transform pain lies in the journey within. These are some things I have found myself engaging in to deeply understand what pain was calling me to share in my life. I was deeply intrigued by the meaning of purpose and how, often, when I protect my purpose, my purpose protects me too.

In Sanskrit, “dharma” holds too many complex visuals and definitions to be simplified, but in Hinduism it is regarded as a cosmic law underlying the right behavior and social order. However, “dharma” can also represent one’s calling. It is a devotion and offering to life and all its creations.

Below I share meaningful ways I have found to help me listen to my pain and redirect my calling:

1) Find solitude

During times of pain, we may feel nudged to find something else that may soothe or distract ourselves from the discomfort. However, distraction creates a temporary separation from our discomfort, and we may miss the opportunity to understand why we feel the way we do. For example, we all may experience triggers in our daily lives as we each have aspects of our childhood that still hold much pain. For me, moments when I am taken back into my “pain body” are when I don’t feel included.

I am tempted to pour out my feelings with another person, but I’ve found leaning into the discomfort in solitude allows me to bring spatial awareness to that area of pain, and it brings greater insight to how the discomfort reveals underlying and unresolved emotions. These emotions guide me to what I find important, which eventually sharpens my understanding of what I hope to change and improve in the world around me.  

Could it be our ego or judgment of our current experience that pulls us away from being present? If so, ask yourself, “what can I learn from this that allows me to be a better person for myself?” What lies behind the pain can hold greater insight for who we are, allowing us to expand into greater compassion and purpose for which direction to take next.

Sometimes, we must be still, to let ourselves feel the movement of thoughts and vibrational energy of our emotions to understand why something is so important to us.

2) Letting go of what no longer serves you

To welcome in the new, we must let go of what no longer serves us. Simply the act of holding onto certain beliefs prevents us from having breakthroughs or newer insights. Sometimes, the most courageous act is to release a thought that has kept you safe, yet prevented you from growing.

For example, not saying “hello” to someone out of fear of rejection, but rationalizing it with “I don’t want to be a bother,” may be a missed opportunity to build a connection. Take a leap of faith and see what is on the other side of surrendering to the unknown.

3) Welcome transformation

In life, one may notice that when disorder erupts, there is a possibility for awakening or deepening of insights and understanding. An example in my own life was during the death of a loved one. The initial shock, followed by grief creates immense pressure to our system that feels like a heavy weight on our chest. Yet, this pressure created an opening for me to accept there were certain things I could not change, and thus channeling my energy back inward to myself and my inner growth.

Pain creates an opportunity to pivot, and when we are aligned with the present moment, it is more likely we will not miss it. Upheavals and awakenings are two sides of the same coin. With just enough adversity, one can transcend above the discomfort through patience and stillness.

4) Finding purpose

I have found that purpose is a merging of passion and talents. Passion can be what brings joy or a fire igniting in your heart that brings vitality to all of you. Talents can be nourished and grown through consistency and discipline. As one merges the two, they can become gifts to yourself and others. View your purpose as an offering to the world, as you may deeply regret keeping it all to yourself.

The payoff is worth the pain

Yes, pain can carry much weight and discomfort, but through pain, one finds opportunities to grow deeper, finding subtle parts of oneself that create the whole person.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

Related reading:

Vulnerability: The path least taken

How I navigated my grandfather’s death as a medical student

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