In my dealings with chronic pain, something very important shifted at some point. My practice had been focused, up to that time, on relaxing in order to make the pain go away, thank you very much. I recognized at some point (at the point of utter exhaustion, to be precise), that acceptance and surrender are a much more powerful place to come from. Why? It indicates a willingness to be with the body, as it is, in the moment. It doesn’t mean giving up at all. But there is a softening toward the pain. Taking the message to heart and working with it. Making friends with our pain and our bodies.
From then until now, that has been my work. I expect it will continue to be my work, because I feel so strongly about it. For me, listening to, and honoring the message that my body is giving me is incredibly reliable. I always have recurrences of pain when 1) I’m under stress and I stop paying attention and 2) when I stop working through whatever stressful thing is coming up. Sometimes, this really pisses me off (as in, “why can’t I be normal and stop with all this pain business?”). Most of the time, I can muster up some gratitude for this amazing connection with my body and what I continue to learn from all of this. Always, it’s a work in progress. My life’s work. From my perspective, if we are lucky enough to have bodies that talk to us with chronic pain, we are blessed with an opportunity to clear out all the old emotions and mental gunk that don’t work. It’s an invitation to embrace a joy and a happiness that is less dependent on our physical reality. In my case, chronic pain led me to my purpose in life—helping others navigate a different way of dealing with pain through mind-body coaching.
I think that sort of growth and learning and positive outcome is available to everyone dealing with chronic pain. Everyone. I truly believe there is something exquisite and beautiful to be found from any experience we have with pain.
From my vantage point, personally, and, as a coach and yoga teacher, we are fortunate to know so much about how to protect ourselves against stress and work through pain, aren’t we? It’s not about finding that elusive sense of balance or necessarily decreasing the amount we do, or moving to an ashram. We want to continue doing what we are doing in the world and live interesting, engaged lives. Mostly it’s about changing our thoughts, which leads to better emotional states, which leads to less stress reactivity in our bodies. Which leads to less pain. And if we pay close attention during the process, the message in our pain can transform our lives.
There is purpose in physical pain. Accept it and face it squarely. Listen deeply, honor the message, experience the gift.