Pain is the best teacher. Pain is a fact of being alive. We all experience our own brand of it one way or another. Suffering is especially infused in most aspects of climbing and alpine pursuits. Ironically, I went to the mountains to avoid pain. I ran to high places to feel freedom from the oppressive elements of society, culture and family and the pain they unknowingly created. I ran because I had no tools to navigate discomfort. I didn’t know what pain was for. But now I do.

An over simplified understanding of pain claims that it as a warning system for the body to protect itself. A hint to tissue damage so that we stop and adjust out behavior to preserve structures. This is true. But what we also know is that for muscle to grow and develop, there must be some pain filled tissue damage that is repaired and augmented to meet the new demands. Through measured physical pain we get stronger.

Athletic induced physical pain usually has community support. We collectively understand and respected that physical pain is a threshold to a different place. A barrier to the level of performance, or accomplishment we seek to inhabit, a portal from one way of being into another. A rite of passage. In accepting it, it somehow loses its grip on us. Emotional pain also requires community support for potential passage from one place to another. Yet often we attempt to traverse this kind of pain alone.

I have endured aching pain in my shoulders from carrying loads, searing blisters on my feet, and the savage burning of my hands warming up after being numb with cold. Warning system pain. I also know uncountable muscle aches that have made me stronger.

Humor has been my habitual tweaked remedy. I laugh at pain, often inappropriately. I noticed this even recently while chuckling at a person who sun burned their neck. Pain is an energy that I direct to the outlet of humour. Why has suffering funny to me? I guess I need to develop the courage to feel compassion for myself or another’s suffering. By laughing I missed pain’s message.

Pain is connected to change. It is asking for or announcing change. Change is a requirement of accessing our potential. Where there is pain we need to listen, so we can understand the request. Remove ourselves or grow. To experience pain gives us something to overcome. And as Jordan Peterson would say, overcoming obstacles makes a story and ultimately how we become real.