It pains me to even say this, but yes pain can be the best thing for you sometimes. As painful as it can be, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually, it can be an escalator to the best parts of you, your life, everything and everyone that shapes your life. I do not want to minimize or neglect mine, yours or anyone’s pain, on the contrary, I want us to fully acknowledge it’s presence and existence, look it straight in the eye and have an intense conversation with it.
The act of acknowledging the pain is a big one. It may go against everything that you have been thought or know to be true. But the truth about who you are and who you are meant to be lies in that acknowledgement.
I’ve always looked at life and everything in it in 3 layers or levels which has helped me time and again in understanding and transforming a variety of difficult situations and scenarios. When I witnessed a steady decline in my wellbeing and increase in the physical body pain, I returned to this 3 level approach to discover what was causing this in my life.
Level One is the incorporeal level, the level where I am the incorporeal being, energy, light. At this level I experience my being as simply light energetic beings, that exist separate and independent from physical restrictions, categorizations, feelings, emotions, even words. Here I am almost as a seed, with potential of all there is and exists and in that naturally silent, consistent and at peace.
Level Two is the spiritual and mental level, the level where the incorporeal being brings it’s potential to life by interacting with other energies and existence. At this level there is spiritual awareness and interactions with one another on a pure level of feeling and we view each other and the world as a manifestation of our pure potential.
Level Three is the physical level, the level where we can sense, hear, see, smell, taste and touch our potential. At this level, all potential which interacted on a spiritual level is manifested in a physical form.
My relationship with pain hasn’t always been this friendly. The reason I have spent many years on a journey trying to understand pain and its purpose, is not due my natural philosophical curiosity, but unfortunately due to my many encounters with it, some trying to avoid it, others being mad at it and then at times wallowing in it, sometimes even drowning in it. I simply wanted to understand it so I can work with it instead of against it. Through my meditation practice, facilitating practical spirituality workshops and counseling fellow meditators, I observed and developed several concepts, theories and realizations in regards to pain. All the ideas, theories and realizations came together one day when I met my Therapeutic Yoga instructor Jodi. It hit me, literally and figuratively. Don’t be fooled by the type of yoga, I was. I misunderstood, therapeutic for gentle or adjusted for people in pain. I was interested to start a regular hatha yoga practice as a natural complement to my raja yoga practice and perhaps a means to bring some movement in to an overly sensitive nervous system causing widespread pain in my body. It took years to come to a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, but that ongoing journey is for sharing another time. What did Jodi help me bring together that day? Let me start with my understanding of pain up until that point.
Years prior a raja yoga teacher and physician explained so clearly the importance and necessity of pain in scientific terms. In short pain is an extremely important indicator in our physiological make up that cautions us of pending destruction. He explained that all living beings, animals and also humans are wired for self survival. If you are burning your finger, your entire body goes into survival response and pain is a part of that response to let you know that something needs to be done and the current course has to be abandoned. I understood this more practically with the first medicine prescribed to me for the Fibromyalgia pain. The medicine was intended to affect pain receptors in the body. To my untrained physician’s mind, I basically just felt a bit better. One day I stumped my toe on a wooden stage, a pain that is normally excruciating was just an “ouch”. I continued until someone pointed to the trail of blood I was leaving behind. Not only had I hit my big toe, I split and removed half of the nail. I understood very personally the importance of pain within my body and its job to caution me and had to stop taking that medicine. I began the journey to “change course”, “change course”, “divert”, “divert” in whatever direction there was a reduction in that pain. With appreciation and gratitude for the amazing machinery of my body which is only trying to indicate to me, to change course for my survival. I am not encouraging remaining in pain at all. Physical pain has many complications that affect our lives at home, work, in our relationships etc. We must do what is necessary and within our reach to assist us on the healing journey. I had to find remedies, therapies to help me reduce pain while on the journey to find the source and correct it or at least improve it. Mental and spiritual pain and its effects are not to be underestimated in this equation, especially because it works the same as physical pain. Emotional pain and suffering is yes, also an indicator to “change course”, “divert”. The pain is there to let us know that change is needed for emotional survival. Especially on the spiritual journey, those following a spiritual practice, the pain signal is often denied or ignored, as “peace” is the standard persona to be shown to others and the world. Denying or ignoring the pain does not make the ongoing destruction halt. As we are meant to survive, pain will have to find more ways to advise us that survival is compromised. Emotional pain, depression, mood swings and disease within the physical body are all ways in which we are cautioned. I am not on the verge a of new discovery here. Ancient wisdom and modern technology affirms the connection between mental, emotional and spiritual pain with physical disease.
Now back to therapeutic, yeah right, yoga class. Here is this amazing woman Jodi, we have an instant spiritual connection. I advise her of my current physical shortcomings and my concerns beginning a practice and she acknowledges. Let’s start. We start with what seems to me a minor activity, rolling the foot on a pvc pipe, I got this. Nope, I do not “got” this!!! She explains beautifully how the nots of accumulated energy need to be worked through and out to release the pain. She asked me not to forget to breathe, but not just breathe, she asked me to breathe around the pain, not on the pain. There were certain areas I worked through, that I literally cried, not a physical pain cry, I recognized the emotional release cry. That’s when I actually “got” this. Jodi had me work points in the body, that I would never naturally touch or move or massage and releasing and working through the physical pain, I could actually see the emotion or situation that created that pain. The way she thought me to look and and breathe around the physical pain, immediately connected in my mind to the way I needed to deal with mental, emotional and spiritual pain.
First of all, pain cannot and will not be ignored. Ignored pain will only accumulate as nots in the corners of your mind, spirit and even in your body. It will affect the way you hear, see, smell, taste and perceive the world and everyone in it. It will, as it is inclined to, find ways to warn and caution you of its existence at the most inconvenient times. Since pain cannot and will not be ignored, as it is there to benefit us, to caution us and to guide us towards the best means of survival, we absolutely must befriend it or atleast acknowledge it’s existence. We must respectfully acknowledge the pain, respect that it is here to guide us, then breatheeeeeee!!!! Breathe around it, give it space and breathe around it.
In the healing journey, I’ve realized that I had to allow myself to heal on all 3 levels. We all have to find ways that will allow use to heal and sustain ourselves on those 3 levels (or however they make sense to you) and that ofcourse is different for each individual.
Healing Level One. Healing on this level is healing the way you see yourself, life in general and your purpose for being here. It is based on your spiritual, religious and or agnostic upbringing. Its is related to that which gives you a sense of connection to yourself, the universe, divinity. For me it is the belief that at my core I am pure potential, that I consist of all possible qualities and virtues, that I am a seed of peace, love, purity, innate wisdom and bliss. To heal on level one, I have to find ways to go beyond the story of my life, what happened, what I did, how people see me, how I see myself, my role, my age, my gender even my name. In meditation I take moments away from everything to return to everything. Meditation reminds me for those moments of who I am at the core. For you it can be prayer, silence, simply being, whatever allows you to heal on that level.
Healing Level Two. On level 2, we heal our spiritual vision of ourselves, of ourselves in relation to others, of the world and our relationship to it. Am I able to bring that potential of Level One into my awareness and experience it in action and interaction with others and life’s scenarios. Do I recognize that below the surface there is always so much more going on than meets the eyes. Can I see, sense, hear and feel more with my spiritual senses what is happening around me? To heal on this level I vowed to look deeply within myself to see where I accumulated pain and why? I promised to look truthfully to the scenarios and perhaps how I may have perceived them and withdrew pain from them. There are many ways to go through such a process, whether reflection, journaling, meditation, therapy, group therapy, hypnosis etc. I was lucky to spent a week in a silence program, structured silence guided by a facilitator to assist me through the journey and provide support. The process itself, I’ll share more another time, but the idea was to allow myself time to identify and give space to heal from accumulated hurts from the past.
Healing Level Three on this level, in this day and age, there are unlimited modalities and ways to find what works for you, your body type and your physical limitations. I did not limit myself and explored a variety of alternative therapies that helped me find relief. A change in diet, with acupuncture, and therapeutic yoga (Jodi 🙂 ) were my chosen methods. I have recently started my healing journey with Ayurveda and I feel it is helping me to understand my unique constitution and unique steps needed to heal. I feel Ayurveda is actually allowing me to heal on all three levels at the same time.
My healing journey is not complete, because life is a journey. I still regularly check into the three levels and see how far along I have come. The way that pain has become my coach, is that is has guided me to heal the parts of me that I had denied or ignored. My coach has shown me simply that a closer look was needed and a change of course. The pain was not there to hurt me, or cut deeper into a wound, it was simply shedding light on that which needed my attention. As I have gone through this amazing journey with pain, it has not made me exempt from experiencing pain, I still do, on a regular basis find things not going the way I had hoped, experience rejection, separation, loneliness, regret and so on. I allow myself to go through the process of grief, to acknowledge, to feel, to heal and change course when I am ready to do so. So when I don’t answer your phone calls, now you know, just kidding, when I don’t answer or respond as usual, I am grieving something, whether minor or major and allowing myself time to go through that process. So during this time I welcome lovely random texts, silent walks with friends, hugs, ice cream (hint hint), vegetarian meals (hint hint), long drives to nowhere with great company.
I am sharing this with all of you because I know it is not an easy journey. I hope that even a single sentence may give you a sense that you are not alone, or provide you some comfort. Lord knows I need that sometimes too.
Originally Published: March 3rd, 2019 on www.theeasyyogi.com
The Easy Yogi, Owner/President of mindfulCITY is a personal consulting company specializing in practical spirituality. It’s about using the soul’s innate inner wisdom to navigate daily life — essentially taking the mat to the streets — by combining instruction in meditation and Ayurveda with guidance on how to access and use your own inner compas to navigate your unique path. An early description of Ayurveda given in the Caraka Samhita says: “It is called Ayurveda because it tells us which substances, qualities and actions are life enhancing, and which are not. — Sutrasthana 30.23. The Easy Yogi offers one-on-one consultations, courses, workshops and retreats. The Easy Yogi also hosts MindfulCITY’s signature podcast.