Monthly Archives: October 2019

finding the gift in pain?

My sister needed a root canal and said, ‘while i was in pain, i kept trying to do what you do- find the gift in it- and it sucked and i couldn’t find it.’

let me be clear: that’s not what i do.

During pain, I breathe and with my exhalation, try to release resistance to the pain. I use the breath to explore the pain on the inhale (what size/shape/gravity/nature) and melt around it on the exhale. Sometimes I can do this for 1/2 hour. sometimes I can only do it for a couple of breaths. More than once, the pain has gotten so intense I’ve passed out (which actually was welcome because sleep is difficult when in pain). Noticing the pain, releasing resistance, trying to come to equanimity. I use the breath and whatever practices I can remember (like inviting pain to sit on the porch with me and watch the sunset) to be present to the experience of the pain. Sometimes, I just have to take some medicine and sleep (I’ve found 30mg of CBD puts me out reliably). What’s for sure is it slows me down, and I no longer begrudge it the time. My orientation is: My body must be needing something and this is the only way it can get it. OK, I’ll play along. Releasing mental resistence=step one.

The gift I’ve found through pain isn’t in the pain itself. The gift has been in what the experience of pain has done for my life, and does for my life. Deciding not to try to avoid or get away from pain, pain mandates present moment awareness, and sustained present moment awareness at that – even if it’s hard and unpleasant. That present moment awareness lets me look my kids in the eyes to see what they’re really asking – I am convinced I would have given mostly cursory attention and perfunctory answers to most of my kids’ questions had I continued on the path I was careening down prior to pain. I have a thousand examples of something I would’ve zoomed by, I now hold and appreciate and respond to. That’s the gift of pain. It changed the quality of my attention.

Within the moments of pain, sometimes I imagine the pain telling me its origin story. I try to just release resistance – to the story, to the sensation, to anything that’s not pure space. Most of the time I just let pain let me get quiet. This week, it’s been working intensely on my walking. I am sort of a comedy show to watch – extremely slow, but when I go slower than a snail, I am more aware of the shifting of my weight, the orientation of my legs and knees, the drop in my sacrum. I have always been awkward in my body to some degree. I feel this particular bout of pain is going in and correcting some essential habits I developed to work around all of the tension of various unprocessed traumas. I use pain to learn deeper and deeper ways of relaxing. that has nice implications in my pain-free times, too.

So, it’s not so much that i find a gift in the pain – it’s more that by releasing my resistance to pain in general and learning how to be present, many gifts have unfolded in the foundation of my life and my interactions with others and with life itself. I let pain set the pace of my life – a pace I never would have chosen nor been  convinced to embrace, and that pace has transformed me. Do I miss my old pace? Sometimes. But, I also see the constant ‘chasing’ i was doing, and i don’t miss that at all. And through this new pace, I’m able to see the chasing i still do, which brings it into choice, which lets me make a new decision. I never would’ve seen it at my old pace. So, this is another aspect of the gift.

But, I don’t sit enjoying pain. By exploring it, sometimes I can achieve a few breaths or a few moments of equanimity. Sometimes, though, most of my experience is enduring the pain. This last bout, I’ve been practicing Radical Rest where I say, “I am relaxing for my knee” and trying to relax my whole body in honor of the painful knee. I found it super interesting. This is how I occupy myself with pain. I’m a far cry from plucking daisies within it…


Two things i learned from the trauma summit:

one of trauma’s hallmarks is the idea that there is not enough time.

the physical anxiety of mentally waiting for the next assault is a component of trauma.

These two things defined my life. And, I gotta tell you, I really interpreted life as a series of assaults on my sovereignty and plans that I had to figure out how to fix to move on with my plans. And I was absolutely positive that i was playing against time, and the fear of there actually not being enough time (and enough skill) to actualize my potential – terrifying.

I had balancers, in spiritual and human potential ideas, but I was into the hurried, assailing world hook line and sinker.

I am extremely grateful to be slowing down and disinvesting from that energy field and mindset and method of operation. I can’t imagine how I would’ve done it without pain.

I don’t want to fetishize pain. Pain is no fun. But if it’s here, it must be possible in some version of the world that it’s here to help. That’s the version I want to live in. In any case, I want to live in a world of presence and compassion and savoring and natural timing. However you get there, it’s the place to be.

my orientation

Today I read in Paul Selig’s latest book (I’m going to paraphrase because the book is in the other room and it really hurts to walk) ‘when you make the decision that everything that comes to you is for you, without exception, coming to you as a requirement for growth, that’s when life gets interesting. When we can meet everything as definitely an aspect of God coming to us to be witnessed, related to, and loved as only we can love it. Yeah, that’s a paradigm shift, and the upgrade of all  upgrades.

Do I have pain because i’ve done things wrong and continue to do them wrong? Matters not: It’s here, so it is obviously a requirement for my growth, which i will meet with humility, witness, relation and love. Yeah, that’s so much better than the feeling of the last few days. Maintaining it, remembering, that is the key. but the good news is that when i forget, it becomes unbearable, making me reevaluate and remember. (how many things in my life i’ve learned and forgotten… six months later: wait! i’d already solved this! I shouldn’t admit that, but it’s true.)


I’ve been flared up which has given me time to watch the Collective Trauma Summit, lucky, lucky me. I’ve learned a lot. I’m buoyed by knowing there are so many talented, brilliant, caring people out in the world seeding connection, compassion, presence and love. I’m grateful to be a blood cell in the current of this artery (is that too weird? i want to feed and expand this pathway, seemed like an ok metaphor)

Everybody, and I mean everybody, talked about the importance of being in your body. Everybody. Several gave nice practices. It made me so excited.

There is no way I would be in my body without this illness – every freaking chance I get to re-speed up, I do (even if just a little). This illness has forcibly placed me – exactly where I want to be. Everyone I respect most talking about what to actually do to bring about society that cares for EVERYONE, they’re all saying, “be here.” and literally, I am exactly there. And, make no mistake, I would not be here. I didn’t even know what here meant. here was just about the most uncomfortable place in the world. i could sit still for 1 second before jumping off into an activity or a mental chattering. being in my body, grounded, still, open, curious, receptive… this did not exist for me. It does now. I have pain to thank.

<insert whole: ‘i’m ready to grow without pain’ section>

I know the value of being in my body, and I’ve developed a lot of practices to lure me back when I get caught up in the mental stream. I really love them and I am excited to express more as that comes. but this dance of being in the body and being in the mind and coming back to the body and being in relationship mindfully, and being in relationship through a mask of isolation – it’s all unfolding, carving that riverbed.

I spend a lot of time consciously turning my attention to my feeling state. I do it a lot.And i’m still at the very beginning of actually “getting it”. so happy to be on the ride.

Thank you for suffering through my tribulation… sometimes I forget it’s all a choice. Am I choosing to be incomplete in the moment, needing something to be whole? Am I choosing to be complete in the moment, laughing off any concept that would hold me as ‘not quite there yet’.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a choice. But it is.

The choice to remember we are not here to fix ourselves, but to live.

(chinese proverb: the bird does not sing because it has an answer, but because it has a song.)

it is So. Darned. Tempting. to envision a state of being that is improved over the one i am experiencing. i can come up with a thousand little condition improvements that altogether would look like heaven on earth to my conditioned mind of aversions and preferences. it’s just that i want heaven’t version of heaven on earth, not the hodgepodge of learned ‘better’ and ‘worse’s. and the truth of the matter is that life itself is expressing through this exact moment i’m in – and is alive and free and beautiful. when i rest in that, and then allow my creativity to think about what i can contribute (instead of how i should be different, or life should be different) – this is the life i want to live. i don’t want to chase anything anymore, not even awakening or health. i want to relax into and love what is. now. as is.

important to remember.

my wholeness looks like this

After a weekend of reevaluating whether or not i’ve shifted my thoughts well enough – more like a weekend of knowing that i HAVEN’T shifted my thoughts/thinking/beliefs quite enough as evidenced by real swelling and pain – I am delighted to remember the work of The Guides and that I am in agreement to whatever is before me, which comes to me for my benefit and offers me the opportunity to unfold… So, yes, i can feel that this pain is what is before me right now and my sensitivity to it, my willingness to engage and be present, release resistance and feel connection – this is my work. and i’m pretty good at it and find it interesting and expansive. I’m not so good at it that it ‘works’ and takes away all my pain, but here it is before me and so i will meet it with curiosity and openness, just the way i want to meet everything (Caroline Casey and the emotional set point of “woof, woof, wanna play?”)

I can get really hard on myself when I forget. When I think my responsibility is to fix myself. when i can point out all of the ways in which i am failing, if  life is about comfort at every turn…

I suddenly got very frustrated at the idea of the self help industry selling a ‘life can be a cadence of unceasing abundance, if you just do it right… here, try my way’… it’s no different than the constant growth economic model that’s depleting everything on the planet. All good all the time is actually what is happening, whatever we think of it, but it certainly doesn’t look like it all the time, given the values and expectations we all have in our heads about what is good and what is bad.

It would be lovely to be pain-free, and some days I am pretty close. Today is not one of those days, and I believe a big part of it is the stress I have been putting myself under in this “If i were doing it right, i wouldn’t be in pain… I would be able to cure myself” conversation in my head.

Over the decade plenty of people have intimated the New Age wisdom that it’s all in my thoughts, and if I could clean them up, I’d be well. And, the truth is, through this practice, plenty of my thoughts have shifted and I am weller because of it. Anger and frustration have a quick and noticeable impact on my pain levels, and I’ve gotten much better at identifying and moving through those emotions rather than getting caught in the stories and hanging on to them.

Francis Lucille and his “it’s just ignorance” (which I’ve read plenty of times in spiritual  texts) begs the question: then, please, how do I get out of ignorance?

For me, as I make my way through life and navigating my physical challenges, it has to do with relaxing. with remembering wholeness. with consciously connecting to the deep interconnected web of all life. with releasing judgements about what it is supposed to look like or what my experience is supposed to be. being willing and open and curious. with filling my time and mind with possibility and human potential. and for the most part, that keeps my days feeling well-spent.

and then every once in a while, I get caught in this “but if i were doing it right, it would look like this” trap. and maybe that’s true. but I am where I am, and I am doing my best, just like everyone else. I am whole, just as I am. my wholeness is complete whether or not it looks like other visions of wholeness.

it can be confusing, though. I’ll tell you that…


pain? pain. pain!

I’m going to process some stuff online, here. I’m actually incredibly curious as to where it’s going to go. I don’t have the intention for ‘the moral of the story’ but really want to look at uncomfortable meanderings and see if I can unearth a deeper level of truth.

I have to admit, I have come to be grateful for the pain I experience. It has slowed me down in a way and to a degree I never would have self-selected, but that slowness, that stillness, that unplugging from the “Now! Now! Now!” of life has been enormously enriching. Enormously.

So, does that mean I’m attached to the pain I experience? It might. And that would be a shame. I mean, I don’t want to be creating pain because I’ve attached a benefit to it. At the same time, I have worked so many freaking programs to transcend it, choose differently, exert my co-creative potential for perfect health.

I want to say “none of them worked” but that wouldn’t be true. All of them worked in part. Some little parts, some big parts. But nothing ‘took away’ the pain in my body. Bummer, because that would’ve been nice.

I have experienced a few ‘healing events’ which I have equated with ACIM’s “there is no order of difficulty in miracles” and Abraham-Hicks’ “a button is the same effort as a castle” – so if I am experiencing incremental healing, and incremental healing and total healing have no separation in effort…

Here’s what I’m struggling about: I don’t want to be constantly making a choice to create pain. It sure doesn’t feel like the pain I experience is a choice. Sometimes, it does; if i eat something with heavy cream, I am definitely choosing to move very little the next day. But, for the most part, it feels like pain was imposed upon me. I get happy with myself for choosing to say, “ok, if this is here, it must be here with the possibility for awakening through it,” and then someone reminds me that if i were doing life right, choosing in a more woke fashion, had better faith/trust/belief/surrender, I could be experiencing all my growth with perfect health.

There’s a whole strain of the new age movement (and mysticism, and other belief systems) that tell me pain is a choice.

I tried VERY hard to NOT CHOOSE PAIN and yet the pain remained.

Which just gave me another thing to beat myself up with. A failure. If only I could release my resistance to its being easy to manifest perfect health.

So, that feels awful. Potentially true, but awful. I am separate, I make poor choices, I’m modeling poor choice-making behavior and a variety of other implications.

Another part of me says, “hey, wait a second. it may be true that unprocessed grief and trauma led me to experience physical breakdown (and not just genetics or the luck of the dice), but by learning to follow the body’s lead I’ve been accessing deeper levels of presence which is naturally tending to the unprocessed stuff, as well as enriching my life and making me more present to my family and more transparent in communication and being in the world. That seems positive.”

And another part says, “yeah, well, if you were doing it right, you’d be pain-free.”

To which another part replies, “who says pain-free is the superior state? Pain, pleasure… these are experiences – there’s no ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ The key is to experience the moment with an open heart, curiosity, and compassion no matter what it contains.”

And up pops the realization that a part of me is still afraid of “doing it wrong.” Makes sense. Human.

The deeper truth is I have a lot to learn. I have far more freedom than I’ve understood how to harness. When I meet the moment with presence, curiosity and willingness, I am open. I am open to my role as a creator as well as to my role in a mystery. I don’t need a specific result. My deepest longing is to be of service to life itself, to allow the new to be born in and through me, to hold a field of presence that acknowledges and honors all of life. even the pain. also offering a space where the pain can be resolved.

One thing that seems to be true: If the pain is going to resolve, it’s above my pay-grade at the present moment. I may be well be growing into a role that can transform it, no problem. But, I’m not there yet. And I subscribe to the idea that ‘what’s in the way, is the way.’ and so, on I go, listening to the body, offering myself in service, and meeting the day as it comes.