We all experience "ups & downs," "good times & bad," etc. In fact, our contact with life's "opposites", and our "approach-avoidance" reaction to them, started in utero!
“From the very beginning of our lives, even from before we are born, we organize ourselves in response to our environment. We pull away, with our body and our consciousness, from whatever is painful or overwhelming, and we constrict those parts of ourselves that are experiencing pain. Our pulling away from abrasive stimuli is not just a mental process. It is an actual constricting against the sensation of pain.
… trauma (is) any event that is too intense, too painful – emotionally or physically – or too confusing to be fully received.
(This) is simply the ordinary human condition. We all grow up to some extent limited in our human capacities, such as our ability to love, to speak freely, or to think clearly, by (trauma-induced) holding patterns … Although we may be aware of feelings of tension in our body, most people are not aware of the limitations in their ability to receive and respond to life, unless these limitations become severe. Most of us accept our limitations as being ‘just who we are.’ ” Judith Blackstone
We approach pleasurable opportunities to promote well-being & survival. Conversely, we avoid or withdraw from painful experiences as protection from harm. This biological approach-avoid dichotomy underlies all motivational tendencies, forms the basis of emotion, & promotes adaptation.
We're biologically & culturally programmed to seek pleasure & avoid discomfort. But life includes pleasure, pain, as well as uncomfortable periods of growth that take place beyond our comfort zone - in liminality - a state of in-between-ness, ambiguity confusion & even boredom.
Lovas J, Gold E,
Neish N, Whitehorn D, Holexa D. "Cultivating Engagement through
Mindfulness Practice." Poster Presentation, American Dental Education
Association annual meeting, March 19, 2012, Orlando, FL.
Our struggle to avoid pain & liminality, and cling to happiness is the basic obstacle to joyful, full engagement with life.
Particularly in our youth, we might assume that "really living" is a wild roller coaster ride. During periods of calm & peace, we may actually become anxiously "bored." With age, however, we tend to prefer peace over emotional extremes.
Mindfulness practice cultivates wise acceptance of, & the ability to work equanimously within the entire range of what life brings us - embracing all the apparent opposites, even all apparent paradoxes.
Our minds cannot comprehend this - a serious, often permanent road-block for many. HOWEVER, for the few who are sufficiently interested, patient meditation practice allows us to experience the fact that literally "everything is workable," moving us well past mere acceptance, towards intimacy with ALL of life.