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With a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree (Goucher College, August 2014), I am looking at a new phase in my life. From 1992 to 2009, I served as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House, a residence for homeless women living with AIDS. I left this position when Chronic Migraine Disease overtook my ability to do my job. Now I hope that a writing career will both accommodate the migraines and give me a creative, productive outlet. And soon, September 4, I will launch my Inkshares author page in a bid to hit the 1,000 pre-order goal in 90  days. The book I want to publish is "Nowhere Else I Want to Be," a memoir of ten of my years at Miriam's House.

06 July 2010

14July: Letting God

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14 JULY:

* Today's post - "Letting God"
* Painful Poetry - "How Do You Solve a Problem Like a Migraine?"

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Letting God


There's a reason that "let God" comes after "let go" in the popular phrase. In the context of serious physical pain, my ability to turn to God is hampered by the tightening of muscles, thoughts, and emotions around the pain. Letting God means first letting go of and releasing the tension, nerves and emotions built up around the pain.

Not that this is easy. It is as though the pain is the deadly center of a whirling hurricane of emotional and physical tension and, sometimes, fear. But, easy or not, it is very important to me to listen for the "still, small voice" (Old Testament; 2Kings, chapter 2)that has become the center of my spiritual life, and I know that the whirl of tension effectively blocks out not just the Voice, but my ability to attune my spirit's hearing to it.

A later topic in this blog will be the mind/body/spirit connection, the exploration and experiencing of which has been an important component of my spiritual life. When I am in pain and my body is knotted around the pain, my mind (thoughts and emotions) and spirit are correspondingly knotted. If I ignore this reality, or try to push through it in order to get something done, then I can do little in relation to the pain except endure it - even as it worsens, the knots that I am refusing to unloose becoming that much more tense as time passes. Predictably, this results in an increase my tension, impatience, and inability to concentrate. This escalation takes me further and further away from that which is most important to me: centeredness in God.

In the previous post (12July: Letting Go), I briefly described the method I use to untie those knots and thus become ready to turn toward God (and also included resources for learning deep relaxation). This untying - as wonderfully effective as it may be - is not enough for me: connection to God, is, if anything, even more important when I am in pain.

My regular meditative and prayerful practice has sometimes led me to a flood of peace, the feeling of Divine Love, and a sense of ultimate connectedness. In the context of being in pain, it all becomes a blessing that reduces the pain's importance.

Two points:
1) Pain is not a helpful forum in which to learn to meditate or calm the mind and spirit. A regular practice of meditation, mindfulness, reflection, quiet time and/or yoga is essential to building the skills for practicing while in pain.

2) I have not experienced an actual reduction in pain after meditation and/or deep relaxation, which is why I used the phrase (above), "...[I]t all becomes a blessing that reduces the pain's importance." I also note that it's not the pain that is changed, but my relationship to it.

When I "let God" after letting go, the pain is redeemed by becoming part of my spiritual life, an expression of my yearning to be present to God. Pain is somehow transformed into a means to this ultimate end of my existence. This is not to say that I welcome pain: after six months of rest, I am baffled and frustrated because I have experienced no change in the frequency and intensity of the migraines. It is, however, to say that when I allow the pain to become a path to God, it is less a bothersome distraction and more a functioning part of my spiritual life.

Next post: "Presence to God"


I'd love to hear from you: click the Comment link below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com

Painful Poetry
Original if Awkward Attempts to Find Humor in Pain

(To the tune, "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" from Sound of Music)

How do you solve a problem like a migraine?
How do you stop the vomit and keep it down?
How do you find a word that means a migraine?
A pain in the left lobe, ice pick to the head, a frown?
Many a day you know you're going under.
Many a time you cancel all your plans.
But how do you make it cease,
instead of the sure increase?
How do you get the throbs of pain in hand?
How do you solve a problem like a migraine?
How do you bear it once it has began?

When I have one I'm confused,
out of focus and bemused,
and I never know exactly where I am.
Any light will make me groan,
any movement cause a moan,
I can't stand it -
this pain, damn it -
it's no sham.
I'll spend hours getting rest
blindfold, dark room, no noise; lest
I should move and feel that stabbing pain again.
Don't come near me I might cry,
though I couldn't tell you why.
Nerves aquiver,
in a dither -
Let Me Die!

How do you solve a problem like a migraine?
etc.

2 comments:

  1. Carol, I think this is another beautiful and well written post. I too, believe that we can use all things to help ourselves become more loving- if we seek to draw closer to the Divine through all things, this brings meaning to all aspects of our lives, even the less than pleasant ones. Blessing on your journey, dear friend!

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  2. Jul - it's about finding God in all things, drawing closer to the Divine, seeking Love everywhere ... Thanks for your input.

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