My Favorite Kind of Pain

I had been hearing about an impressive tai chi teacher named Gregory Fong since moving to Portland in 1997. It was about five years later that I convinced Briana to join me one evening and we drove to Chinatown to check out his class. Sifu (“master”) Fong, as everyone called him, was probably not more than about five feet tall, but there was something intimidating about him. He welcomed us warmly, then said, “I have two questions for you. First, do you like pain?” 

Do I like pain? What is the appropriate answer here? I mumbled something like, “Maybe if there is a good reason.”

He smiled. “Question two. Do you like to work hard?”

Oh boy. I thought about asking him to define the word “like,” but instead responded with, “I guess?” 

He chuckled. “Alright, you don’t know if you like pain or hard work. Just sit down on that chair then.” He pointed to a wooden folding chair against a wall covered with framed portraits of Chinese men. “Rest your hands on your thighs. Don’t lean back. Lift your feet off the floor just high enough for one sheet of paper to fit under them. See you later.” And he walked away for a long time. You can try that right now if you’re sitting. 

Years later, having done a lot of hard work and endured much pain in his classes, I reflected that I did in fact like to work hard. I still didn’t like pain, but I had learned the difference between avoiding it versus using it and finding a way through it. And I decided that those two questions are useful preliminaries before almost any endeavor. 

They came to mind as I was thinking about the upcoming launch of our Sacred Expansion course. It’s a required program for all of our life coaches, and worthwhile for anyone interested in growing beyond their self-imposed limitations and releasing blocks to having an exceptional life. 

In the context of Sacred Expansion, if I were to ask, “Do you like pain?” what I mean is, are you willing to voluntarily experience discomfort as part of discovering what’s holding you back? Are you willing to experience the tension of psycho-spiritual growing pains? Are you willing to be uncomfortable in the short term in order to release the long term discomfort you’ve gotten used to? Are you willing to use your pain to initiate a breakthrough

As for the question “Do you like to work hard?” what I mean is, are you willing to stick with the work of unraveling your inner knots even when it’s difficult? Are you willing to choose a higher purpose – for instance: freedom, peace, spiritual connection, joy, service to your species and planet – over and over and over? Are you willing to break some habits? Are you willing to challenge your own thoughts? Are you willing to explore parts of yourself you aren’t comfortable with? All of these tasks represent a certain form of work

By liking hard work, I don’t mean that you get points for having a hard life or that there’s merit in making things unnecessarily difficult. In fact, a core principle Sifu taught was that hard work and peace aren’t mutually exclusive. We can be at ease while simultaneously working our hardest. Regardless of the form that our work takes, there’s no getting around the importance of consistent effort in the direction of our dreams if we want them to come to fruition. 

If you’ve even thought, “I know I have greater potential than this” or, “I feel like I’m missing out on my superpowers” or, “If I could release all this baggage, I could finally feel free!” read more about Sacred Expansion. We’d love to have you join us. 

Be well,


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