Why wherever there is the most pain, I run towards it, instead of away...


“I must be a mermaid…I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.

——Anais Nin

Yep, that quote, I think she was talking about me. I like to walk into the fire. It’s just the way I roll.

I used to think in medical school that what I liked most was to be at the side of people needing their bodies put back together.

But then I learned even more than stitching up bodies, my gift and heart work is in tending to broken souls.

If someone is suffering, I want to sit with them. If a whole community is suffering, I want to go there.

Last Summer, I had the honor of working with the community of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida after the February shooting there. Parents, teachers, students, and more.

And that’s what I did last week, again with over 100 members of Sonoma County affected by the fires last year.

Through my work with the Center for Mind Body Medicine where I am senior faculty, we led a training for in Santa Rosa. A training on how to heal from the shared suffering, how to move forward and how to build resilience.

Both of those weeks reminded me of why my desire to walk into the hardest hit areas is a gift. You see, I think you’re lucky if you can suffer in a larger group rather than alone and in fact, my gifts teach me that IF we are suffering alone, it’s time to go out and connect with others.

I received too many gifts to count but let me try to give you an idea.

#1 When we suffer in community, we see how suffering transcends our differences.

When our hearts hurt, when we experience fear…AND we see someone else who is going through the same thing, it doesn’t matter what their race, religion, socioeconomic status or anything is. We just know that we are both human and that our being human and our hurting is what brings us TOGETHER, not apart. It becomes impossible to deny that we are all here living life and vulnerable to the same, exact pain.

#2 When we suffer, we want so badly to close down. We feel pain and we want it to stop. But when we suffer in community, it’s around us constantly and in a way, that gives us no out. We must open our heart.

This is the problem most of the time, my friend. We want to shut down. We want to close our heart. Keeping it open seems too painful.

But this is the secret, right here, right now.

The MORE we open up and stay open, the more we connect.

And the more we connect, the more we see our suffering as universal.

And the more we see it as universal, the less weighty it becomes.

We can hold it together.

#3 When I work with whole communities that are suffering, whether it’s after a natural disaster or a man-made one like a school shooting, I am struck by two of the most powerful human qualities: COURAGE and HOPE

It takes COURAGE:

  • to suffer openly.

  • to say you’re going to put one foot forward and then the other.

  • to say, I am in pain.

  • to say, I can heal.

COURAGE comes from the word “coeur” or heart. It takes all of COURAGE to live from our heart.

And it gives me HOPE:

  • to see hearts open

  • to see people heal

  • to see communities come together and hold each other’s hearts

  • to see us prove that we are greater than any suffering that falls upon us

Yes, I like to walk into the hardest moments. But that doesn’t make me special.

It just makes me human, with my eyes AND my heart OPEN.

And I’m going to stay that way. Because what I can tell you is that when my heart is more open, I may feel more pain and more joy but the greatest gift is I feel more alive.

And to any of those 109 members of Sonoma County who may be reading, I am so grateful for ALL you taught me.

May we all feel our aliveness each and every day.

Live well,


Tanmeet SethiComment