avoid pleasure, embrace pain?

At my lecture in Albany, New York, I met a 92-year old cancer patient who came with his two adult sons, all of them Quakers. The sons are GSG readers and pressed me to help their father understand how important an alkaline, raw, plant-based diet is in eliminating cancerous growths.

The elderly man, who is fit and lively and looks to be in his 70’s rather than his 90’s, said to me,

“I’ve lived a long life already.” He then told me he is still a practicing psychotherapist.

“You’re still active and productive, and your family clearly wants you to stick around. So why not stick around?” I asked him.

He thanked me for the lecture I’d just given. And then he shared with me something that has been on my mind for weeks, ever since that night.

“I teach my patients,” he said, “to avoid pleasure seeking.”

Huh? Maybe this is ingrained in Quakers. It won’t fly with us regular folks, I thought.

“My patients avoid pain,” he continued. “But pain is instructive. It doesn’t last forever, doesn’t even last long, usually. On the other side of it is growth and redemption.”

“What you teach,” the elderly gentleman said, “is just that. To embrace a change that is new and difficult at first, and foreign. Painful at first. For the reward on the other side of it.” He assured me that if nothing else, I’d convinced him that there is only abundance on the other side of that learning curve.

I signed his book and said goodbye to the absolutely lovely Quaker men, and they went on their way.

But since then, I’ve been preoccupied with thoughts of how everything good in my life is a result of having done something initially painful.

What pleasure do you seek, for comfort or pain avoidance, that is in the way of your progress?

What pain are you avoiding that is actually a temporary, purposeful process that can take you beautiful places?

Think on it with me. And actualize it. As Kristin says to me, sometimes, of pain,

“There’s no way through it, but through it.”

I have a renewed commitment to doing hard things. Even when they’re painful.