Duhkha: Suffering as Opportunity

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

Meet them at the door laughing,

And invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

Because each has been sent

As a guide from beyond.



So far in my sutras journey I have covered the following:

  1. Atha: readiness and commitment
  2. Citta: heart-mind field of consciousness
  3. Purusa: inner light of awareness
  4. Drsya: Ever-changing mother nature
  5. Viveka: keen discernment
  6. Abhyasa: diligent, focused practice
  7. Vairagya: Nonattachment to sensory objects
  8. Yoga as Nirodha: silencing the heart-mind
  9. Isvara: The source of knowledge
  10. Karma and Samskara: Action and its imprint
  11. Parinama: transformation

It is amazing to me how these all work so beautifully together, and when one is out of synch, so are all the others. And I have barely scraped the surface of all of the yoga sutras!

This next section brings me into section 2 of Nicolai Bachman’s book that I am reviewing chapter by chapter, The Path of the Yoga Sutras. This section is called “Understanding Suffering”, a topic which I think we all can relate to!

The 12th sutra is duhkha, which is “bad space” in Sanskrit. How we CHOOSE to view things, affects our relationship to that thing. Duhkha, according to Bachman means “discomfort or suffering within our heart-mind (citta).”

Suffering is an opportunity. This is what I love about the lessons of yoga, and this book that Bachman has written. Suffering exists as a teacher for us all, and the author writes about the opportunities of suffering and how we can learn to sharpen our viveka skills.

This chapter teaches that if we anticipate suffering, we can avoid it. I’m not crazy about the mother example Bachman uses, to me it is still a bit vague, but it does make clear that we all have the ability to avoid needless suffering in our lives by looking ahead, being present, and being unattached to results as we move forward in our lives. What will happen, will happen, and we are all brilliant problem solvers placed on this planet to figure our shit out.

What stood out to me in my own life in relation to this chapter is finances. I used to be very terrible about spending money, and I didn’t see that my impulsiveness while I was in college was leading to the frustration I would later have when it came to paying rent on time and purchasing food so I could eat. I was not very good at my keen discernment skills back then when it came to spending money: I wanted to go out with my friends and I gave in to peer pressure a lot when it came to shopping and eating out. At the time, I was very distanced from my inner light of pure awareness, and was not centered enough to make sound financial decisions that would have been powerfully impactful for me. Instead, I was making decisions that was causing me not only financial stress, but emotional and psychological harm as a result.

All things are connected. The better we take care of one thing, means the better we are able to take care of all things. The smallest thing we do equals the grandest things we do, so how meticulous and caring we are for the small things in our lives, we are meticulous and caring for the biggest things in our lives.

In this journey I have chosen to undertake as an entrepreneur I have realized the importance of being really diligent about the simple things in life. I have made sure to take my dogs for a walk at least four times per week. I have begun to water my plants in the backyard daily. I make sure I meditate every day, and I consider my meditation and journaling time my most important part of my day, no matter what else I have going on. I have discovered that work is coming easier to me now. I have moved many projects in my life forward in really powerful ways in the last couple weeks, and those time outs I give myself give me space to really contemplate life itself, get away from the tediousness of having to acquire money for things, and gives me space to just enjoy. Walking my dogs has been one of the most powerful habits I have incorporated, if only because of the pure joy in Princess’s entire being: walking a dog is truly an act of selflessness, and how happy it makes her really brings me joy. Apollo, my other doggie, prefers to nap on the couch most of the time rather than walk! He has been known to lift his leg to our kitchen cupboards when we force him to go on walks…

I digress. Duhkha is the key that gives us insight to our worst habits, the very habits that need redirecting and refocusing and revision in order to move our lives forward powerfully. This chapter comes at a perfect time, too, because Mercury Retrograde has just begun only last week. This is a time for reflection, revision, and reviewing plans, getting back into the swing of things with old projects, and taking time to recuperate and replan and go over old strategies and contracts. I love these kinds of reminders, as esoteric as they may seem, because we all need this. As humans, we tend to get excited about new projects coming up and have a tendency to keep tackling new projects, sometimes even before the old ones are complete, whether it’s at work, home, or school, or other times we get caught up in the rut that is our routines. This is a time of year to ask ourselves, why? Why are we allowing ourselves to get caught up in these habits of non-awareness? How is that really serving us? How is spending money willy-nilly serving my own greater good, when I have so much better things to do with the money I earn with my precious time?

Time is much more valuable than money, and if I am immature enough to dishonor the money I make well, then, by default I am also abusing my own time. Therefore, I am my own worst enemy when I don’t have money for the important things in my life.

The yoga sutras thus far have been very powerful miracle workers for me. This awareness, and the conciseness of the Sanskrit words to describe concepts is really, really efficient for me not only as a yoga teacher (I love using these words in my classes) but also as a human being. I am so grateful there is a language that exists that has streamlined these ideas for us into a single word or two.

Bachman writes that suffering can be viewed as difficult yet necessary. How many times have we all heard that at some time in our lives from some authority figure? Parent, teacher, boss, coach, relative, supervisor, the list can go on forever. There truly is freedom in discipline, and to me discipline is the choice you make when you would much rather do something irresponsible or do something responsible, and you choose the responsible thing. Like, would I much rather buy another dress I don’t need, or would I much rather help with purchasing groceries this week? Being in a long-term relationship has taught me this, too. It is easy to get caught up in wanting to go out to eat all the time, but we can support one another and our financial and health goals by being the reminder that it is best to stay in and eat, both for money-saving purposes and for eating-clean standards. I do, after all, have a figure competition coming up that I am training for!

In conclusion, duhkha is a choice we make to see suffering as an opportunity for growth. I cannot count how many biographies I have read of hugely successful people in their specific fields of interest who have made it to where they are only because they see the need for change in their lives, and that change usually comes about because they are at “the bottom of the barrel”, and many times it’s a financial barrel. Being a former athlete, many of the stories that come to mind, from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Michael Jordan, are all stories of perseverance and overcoming negative things in their lives in order to achieve. This is the message of duhkha. Overcome those obstacles that are in your path. Choose to meet your challenges head-on, and choose to take them on, no matter what you think you know about your body and your life.

Because the only thing that truly matters about your life is what you BELIEVE about your life.

Whatever you believe about your life is true.

So you better be believing in the best things possible, and take your duhkhas as they come up, because they are gifts for you on your never-ending journey to success, and they are there to help you grow and discover your greatest strengths.



Suffering offers insight into my deeply held patterns and conditioning.

If I learn from the mistakes and misfortunes experienced by myself and others, then I can avoid or reduce future suffering.

I strive to make conscious choices with a discerning heart-mind.


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