14 September 2010

Befriending Pain, Part 2

In my 12 September post, I shared the practice I have developed over the years to mitigate migraine pain.  I have also found it effective for other physical pain, such as muscle spasms in my back.

There are several benefits to this practice:
* It helps me to manage pain without automatically resorting to medication, over-the-counter or prescribed.  I don't have to deal with side effects - which, for my migraine meds, include muscle fatigue and mild depression - and I worry less about the health of my liver and kidneys.

* I have a sense of being not so much at the mercy of the migraines.  As an intentional, pro-active decision to use a tool of my own devising, it leads me away from feeling victimized by pain.

* The spiritual effects are profound.   Buddhists have known it for thousands of years: becoming aware of, in tune with one own's body - whatever its state - is a doorway to the Divine.  I don't mean that I have ecstatic visions in the midst of alleviating my pain in this way, but that the closer connection to my own body facilitates my spiritual life and my sense of being whole.

This is the theme of this blog: chronic pain and spirituality - the ways in which living with and managing chronic pain can enhance the spiritual life, and vice versa.  One is hard put to find gratitude or to feel holy while suffering pain, yet, over time, a symbiotic relationship is revealed UNLESS one simply runs for the narcotics or Tylenol at the first twinge.  I am not advocating going around looking for chronic pain in order to become more holy.  Is there not plenty of pain in life as it presents itself to us? 

I am reminded of the ubiquitous Socrates quote,

"The unexamined life is not worth living."

In examining my pain instead of fleeing from it, I am also examining my life, my self.  The qualities I am not so proud of - impatience, self-pity, etc. - and the nobler qualities that I want to live into more fully - endurance, compassion, etc - are revealed to me.  This is a spiritual matter, whether aligned with a particular religion, system of beliefs, or not: any work we do to live a better life and be a better person surely brings us closer to God.

I would love to hear from you.  Please use the Comment box, below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.

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