Do We Need Pain To Grow? Can We Learn From Joy?

mbg Contributor By Maria Mooney, MSW, LSW
mbg Contributor
Maria Mooney, MSW, LSW, is a licensed social worker and holistic health coach. She received her B.A. in Criminology from the University of Miami and her Master's of Social Work from Rutgers University. She holds her holistic health coach certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

Being diagnosed with a “progressive and incurable” neurological disease at the age of 23 has been my greatest burden but also my greatest gift because of the juicy life lessons I have learned through the daily and sometimes menacing struggles of living with, treating and healing from a debilitating and disabling disease.

Life’s most important lessons are often disguised, wrapped in the bow of difficult and trying circumstances, but does the universe have to present us with hardships for us to grow and develop?

I’ve often asked myself, Can we learn through joy and ease?

My opinion is that we can and should learn from joyous experiences just as frequently as we learn from stress and difficult circumstances, but we often don’t.

Because of this, we're then presented with a painful experience because the pain stretches us and brings us to our knees, where the real work can be done.

Rock bottom is a wonderful place to begin rebuilding because there is nowhere to go but up and the slate is officially clean.

Oprah Winfrey so eloquently said that God speaks to us in whispers first.

Believe me, God whispered, then He spoke, then He screamed and then He hit me with a neurological disease, because I was too stubborn and unconscious to recognize that I was personally lacking and spiritually starving.

As I look back, I remember all the little whispers, some loud and obvious and some more subtle. I had PLENTY of moments to turn it around, but I chose not to because I didn’t know any better. (Or perhaps I wasn’t spiritually mature enough to receive the lessons that God was trying to give me with grace and humility.)

Part of my spiritual practice today involves my conscious effort to learn through joy so that my future lessons can come in a much gentler manner.

Below are three tips to learn from joy:

1. Live in the moment. 

We cannot recognize the lessons present in joyful experiences if we are not grounded and centered in the moments in which they are occurring. So much of our mental energies are spent ruminating over the past or projecting into the future when luscious life lessons are being offered in the now. Pay attention!

2. Take inventory. 

Every evening before you go to sleep, spend a few moments taking inventory of the events in your day. Search for any moments of growth, joyous or strenuous, and make note of the lessons that were presented to you and the work you have done or can do to be a better version of yourself tomorrow.

3. Practice self-awareness. 

Be mindful of the way you typically learn lessons and pay close attention when those old patterns begin to emerge. I tend to learn the difficult way. Old habits die hard, and even when I do have breakthroughs, I usually find myself slipping back into old, comfortable and unhealthy patterns. Self-awareness allows me to recognize when this is occurring so that I can stop, breathe and point myself back in the direction of purposeful growth.

What do you think? Do you believe you can learn from joy?

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