Today, I’m working with one of the deepest teachers of my life:
This isn’t a teacher I’ve talked about a lot.
It’s not glamorous or attractive.
It isn’t a teacher I wanted to have.
Pain never is.
But, today, I’m waking up for the umpteenth morning with enough pain in my hands, wrists and elbows that just lifting a glass of water is excruciating. Aaack! I live on a farm, these days. I love it. We do tons of things with or hands. Our hands make the farm work. And… my hands just don’t know how to do it, some days.
Pain like this has been a significant teacher for long periods of my life. It’s been so bad at times that it’s made me wonder if I would die, or live the rest of my life curled into a grumpy, crabbed ball. It’s scary and frustrating and un-fun, and it makes it challenging to be the happy, capable, engaged person I like to be. In this, it’s forced me to look at my deepest stories about what matters, who I think I “should” be, and to move consciously towards loving solutions. It’s been my deepest teacher about self forgiveness, acceptance and loving what is. It’s shown me how to “show up” even when showing up is difficult. It’s been a driving factor in my commitment to yoga, dance, healthy eating, personal development and prayer. It’s one of the main reasons why I have such strong discipline to maintain and sustain my practices.
They make my life liveable.
So, today I am practicing what I preach about the value of authenticity by sharing this experience.
Because, I know I’m not alone.
If you deal with pain, here are a few things to do:
- Keep doing what you love. Find gentle, modified ways to do whatever it is that you love to do. Do the deep ego work you need to do around how you do those things. If you can’t push as hard, run as strong, or do things as fast as you want, that’s a part of the teaching to be present with what is and embrace change. Maybe there is a creative opportunity to enjoy new rhythms, subtlety or depth?
- Seek company. Don’t isolate. Share with significant others and friends. Take the risk to be vulnerable and seen. Chronic pain is often invisible, so don’t make yourself invisible in your experience.
- Move. Yoga, dance, hiking, swimming. Find your “thing” that you can do, and do it. Stasis loves stasis. Health loves movement. Choose health.
- Feel all your feelings. Find a safe space with a coach, therapist, healer or within ceremony, to feel all your feelings about what is going on for you. Underneath chronic pain are often deep past traumas or issues of self love and self worth. Your significant other or friends may or may not be able to hold the charge of your feelings, respect them fully, or not take them personally. So, make sure you have at least one person or space that can hold you in the totality of your experience.
- Practice Gratitude. Yes. It’s still true, you have a life, a body, a human heart. And, it is possible, on some level, to love the pain, because it is showing you just how much you love your life. Even now, as I write this, in the power of the word, my experience of my own pain is shifting.
- Choose your mood. Loving in the face of pain is deep practice. Pain twists your mind. So, it becomes a deep practice of mindfulness to recognize that the pain is not you so you can reside in awake awareness and choose the set-point of your mood. This does not mean being inauthentic. It means the mind is your most powerful ally in how you receive your own experience and move outwards into the world.
- Remove inflammatory foods from of your diet. Start with nightshades: potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. Other possible culprits: caffeine, alcohol, gluten, soy, sugar, impure water (that includes water from any plastic bottle).
- Seek natural beauty. Sunlight, warm ocean water and hot springs. Period.
These are not, of course, clinical recommendations. Depending on what you are dealing with, different kinds of dietary, holistic and/or medical support may be needed.
But, the thing is, pain or no pain, the reason we’re here is to love. I gotta live my life one way or the other, and I intend to love it. So, today I’m making an even bigger commitment to embrace the teaching of this cycle of pain and to reach into myself and towards my community and loved ones to stay connected, stay real, and heal.
And, if this speaks to you, I’m with you. Let’s live!