I avoided pain as much as the next guy. I mean, pain is pain, right? And we’re wired to avoid it. We’re wired to at the very least take it as a signal to change something, and preferably as quickly as possible. Pain is basically universally considered to be a drag. And I can’t disagree. And yet,
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
This was a distinction I had never considered, having largely considered Pain and Suffering the same thing. They’re not. Not by a longshot. Now, pain can really suck and enduring it can very often involve a whole lot of suffering even when we’re completely convinced that pain and suffering are different. Today I had a lot of pain and a lot of suffering. But, every time i remembered they are not the same and moved into curiosity and my variety of other strategies to listen into pain, my experience of it changed completely, if only temporarily. And off the cart I would fall. And back into the cart… well, once I noticed I was off the cart I didn’t have to climb, I was lifted. Noticing was all that was necessary – noticing and deciding to put it into a feeling state. The feeling state then lifted the whole endeavor.
But I am, like most of my species, distracted and restless and so it wouldn’t necessarily last long. So, remembering is the trick.
When my body first went into crisis I think 9 years ago, it really caught me by surprise. I used to have a candy dish full of advil on my desk. There was no pain advil (or a few) couldn’t solve. Nothing could touch the constant pain and it was as disorienting and confusing as it was uncomfortable. Trying to watch funny movies, trying to distract myself from the constant. active. pain. – reading often aggravated it and added a headache, but I was reading as much as I could. And desperately trying to meditate it away. About 60 days in, I got diagnosed with RA and found and read Conquering Arthritis which was amazing for me on two levels: 1) She introduced me to Perelandra’s Medical Assistance Program and 2) she had a set of meditation tapes that I hated so much, i would zone out and fall asleep – sleep that had eluded me for months. so, while i hated them, i loved them. they gave me reliable sleep when literally nothing else could. what a godsend.
So, sleep started, and then my Perelandra book came and I started MAP. 5 days later, the pain dropped down and was just achiness. I’ve been doing MAP regularly since then and consider it one of the most important parts of my life. So, yeah, you might want to google Perelandra and pick up the “MAP: Medical Assistance Program” book. Or that might be a little off the deep end for you… no matter. It marked the end of my pain not only because it did, thankfully, literally stop it (along with the fish oil finally kicking in (it can take weeks) and just the right confluence of events) but it also recontextualized pain as a communication tool. This is a principle that changed my life.
I hope I feel good enough to write the next chapter of my journey with pain tomorrow, but right now, i’m needing to stop…