Your pain, your illness, your present discomfort, is nothing to be ashamed of. It is not a sign of your failure, nor a punishment, nor a test, nor even ‘bad luck’……
It is neither meaningless nor the meaning of your life. But it does contain great intelligence, and healing power. If you know where, and how, to look.
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional” – Buddhist Proverb
Experiencing pain in your body
Let’s begin at the beginning. You are experiencing pain in your body. It is intense and uncomfortable. Perhaps you have been to every doctor, every healer, every therapist, every self-help expert. Perhaps you have tried Western medicine, alternative therapies, energy healing, meditation, chanting, changing your diet, drugs, mind-bending spiritual experiences, transmissions from gurus, prayer, retreats, hypnosis. Perhaps you have tried positive thinking, numbing your pain, ignoring your pain, saying ‘no’ to it; you’ve tried being ‘pure awareness’ or a ‘detached witness’ … But the pain is still here.
What can you do?
Will you keep searching for a solution, a therapy that works? Pin your hopes on a future that may or may not come? Or will you give up now, and just accept that there’s nothing you can do?
The answer may lie right in the middle, as most real answers do.
The message of pain
You see, perhaps your pain has something to show you that pleasure, or the absence of pain, or even ‘getting what you wanted’, never could.
Maybe that’s why pain is here, to reveal your true path. Not to destroy you, but focus you. To reveal a courage, compassion and equanimity in yourself that you never imagined possible. To humble you, to bring you to a place of gratitude, and slowness, and truth. So reframe the question, from “How can I be free from pain right now?”, to “Is there some intelligence in this pain? Is there a deeper invitation here? Is there a lesson buried deep within my pain? Is there something that is longing to be met? Something hitherto buried that now wants to make itself known?”
Pain versus attitude
What is worse, the pain itself, or your demand to be free from the pain right now?
The moment-by-moment physical sensations in the body, or your war against them? The pain, or your frustration and despair that it’s “still here” and “hasn’t gone away yet”? The pain, or the feeling that you’re trapped within your body, that you’ve been let down by the organism? The pain itself, or your shattered hopes and dreams?
You may wish to explore what is actually causing the bulk of your stress, depression, fear. Is it the pain itself, or your attitude towards it? You may find that there is a world of difference between bodily pain, and your suffering and sorrow surrounding the pain. You may find that you actually feel much worse when you think about your pain, ruminate on it, brood and obsess over it. When you think about yesterday’s pain or lack of pain, when you imagine future pain, when you fantasize about the pain never going away, imagining that it will eventually kill you; when you think about all the things you did ‘wrong’ – that’s suffering, and that’s the unnecessary part. All of those are thoughts, images, ideas, pictures, suggestions, perspectives, memories, fantasies – not the living reality of the present moment.
Where is your focus?
When you disconnect from the present moment, and go into your story about your pain, you may find that feelings of frustration, fear, anger and even overwhelm begin to build up. You start focussing on so many things that you have no direct control over right now. You dream of a past when you were free from pain, and long to return there (you can’t). Everything was so good, back then. You think again and again about how your pain is preventing you from doing what you want to do, stopping you from living the life that you had planned. You imagine a future filled with pain and disconnection. And you start to feel powerless, and terribly disappointed, and even full of rage against life, the universe and everything. This wasn’t the life you had hoped for or imagined, the life you had been promised. You focus on all the things that you cannot do anymore, all the things you are not, all the things you have lost, all the things that will never return. You blame your pain for ruining your life. You feel so far away from healing, from love, from your true life; so disconnected from your body, so isolated, lonely.
You have tried everything, everything, except the obvious: accepting your pain, being present with it, today.
Now, let’s be clear about this: acceptance does not mean giving up on the possibility that the pain will lessen or even disappear tomorrow, or next week, or next year. It just means that your peace is no longer dependent on whether or not this happens.
You are reclaiming your happiness, today, no matter what the future brings.
Accepting your pain does not mean resigning yourself to fate, being a victim of life. Quite the opposite! It means coming out of all your heavy, fear-based stories of past and future, and aligning with where you are today. It means being an ally of this day, not its victim. It means saying YES to where you are right now, even if ‘where you are’ isn’t where you hoped you’d be. It means being in profound contact with this moment, with this body and its healing potential, with the ground upon which you stand, with an entire universe as it dances.
It means saying YES to where you are right now, even if ‘where you are’ isn’t where you hoped you’d be.
It means admitting that you are not in control of this ancient cosmos, that there is a deeper intelligence at work here, infinitely wiser than the human ego. It means admitting that you cannot know what the next scene in the movie of your life will look like. It means coming out of the story of time and space. It means trusting, and acting from a place of trust. It means tapping into the creativity of the moment; being open to unexpected connections, solutions, answers, and yes, joys.
When you fight your pain, when you run from it, you become its victim, because you are allowing it to have power over you, allowing your contentment to be diminished by it. You are giving pain power through your resistance to it, through your focus on trying to get rid of it, trying to escape it, even trying to ‘heal’ it. There is violence there. And as you have seen, your attempt to get rid of your pain has failed so far; your resistance has not led to true healing. It has only split you further and further from your body, from presence, from peace, from loved ones, from gratitude, from the intelligence of the moment – the source of true healing. And it has exhausted you, depleted your energy stores. Think of all the energy that has gone into the war – energy that could be used to nourish yourself. When you fall into a place of acceptance, you are now seeing pain as an ally, a guide, a teacher, not a threat to your life, your path. The YES is your reclamation of power, not your passivity. You are releasing something unnecessary, not becoming a victim or tolerating something unwanted.