Monday, August 11, 2008

The Gain in Pain

Pain provides a valuable opportunity to stop, look and listen. Let's start with the grossest level of pain, physical pain: for example, a leg cramp. Notice any resistance you may feel to the pain: feelings of dread, sadness or dislike. Now stop: let go of the resistance, and just observe. Note the changes in the physical sensations. Observe the lingering sensations, if any, and describe them to yourself:

is pain deep or shallow?
where is it exactly?
is it stable or does it move?
sharp or dull?
does it radiate?
it is hot or cold?
does it have a color?
does it remind me of an object?
do I sense constriction in the area/areas?

Listen to the answers, attempt to understand. Now breathe into the areas of pain. Can you make space with the breath for the pain to move? Does the pain move? Do you give it permission to move? Can you accept it if it does not? Can separate your awareness from your body, so you can observe it without reacting (without attachment to any one outcome)?

This practice can also be applied to emotional pain. First is stop: can you stop wanting the pain to go away? Can you let go of your resistance? If so, then look: observe any changes in the quality or intensity of the emotion merely by letting go. Then ask yourself: what emotion am I feeling exactly? Does it fall under fear, anger, or sadness? What am I afraid is going to happen? What do I want to keep from happening? What couldn't I keep from happening? Is this something within my control? Listen to the answers, and just observe them. What are your emotions trying to tell you? Are you listening openly? Can you let go of the desire to like what the pain has to say? What is your relationship to the truth? Can you accept whatever you are thinking for the purpose of simply seeing? Then breathe deeply into the part of the body that you feel the emotion the strongest. Can you make space for it to move? Can you create space between your awareness and the emotion, so you can observe it without reacting?

What this all leads to is friendship with yourself - pain as a gateway to unconditional love and support.

I offer you this tool with great respect and love, so you may use it in your inner explorations and arrive at your own conclusions. Happy travels!