The final paragraph of my previous post (20 September) states that just taking the energy to get up off the pity pot of feeling victimized by the migraines opens me to the greater possibilities of the moment. There is something about the intention and action of that decision - to get up and off the pot - that moves both my emotions and my spirit.
Buddhists say (in the Four Noble Truths) that impermanence is a fact of life, and that it is our fight against that fact that causes us suffering.
If I can quietly remember that a migraine does not last forever, it is easier to let go of my need to be the victim of the pain. But if I grasp onto the self-pity that often arises, feeding it with emotion, then I am layering my self-caused suffering on top of the migraine pain.
Romans 5:3-4 - "... we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character, hope."
I find little hope in the migraine itself, yet the very act of persevering through it will strengthen my character, and that is what leads me to hope.
The two are not exactly the same - Buddhists would say, I think, that suffering in order to get to hope is just another way to deny the impermanence of life. If you get to hope and grab it, then you are causing yourself the inevitable suffering that will come when hope fades - which it will, because all things are impermanent. But there is similarity in the Christian and Buddhist acknowledgement that life is full of suffering, and that there is spiritual value in the redemption of suffering through letting it be what it is.
Paul would tell me that by allowing the pain of the migraines, I am persevering in a way that builds my character, which in turn will lead me to hope. In hope is where I find God: "And Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out Love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit..." (verse 5).
The Buddhists would say that the migraine is not always going to be there, so let go of any desire for it to change or anger about its presence. Wanting what I don't have and cannot have (cessation of the migraines) is an endless cycle: want no migraine - don't get what I want - be sad or angry or self-pitying about that - want no migraine ...
Very different results come from the Christian and the Buddhist, yet both are teaching me the spiritual benefits of allowing the pain to be what it is instead of wishing for something else or fighting the reality of the moment.
At the top of this post I said that just making the decision to get up off the pity pot moves my emotions and spirit. Maybe Buddha would say that I am allowing the suffering to be what it is without desiring something else. Maybe Paul would say that I am building character by persevering with and through the pain. In my post of 20 September, I said that moving from victim mode broadens my sight to a 360-degree view that encompasses not only the pain of the migraine, but the many blessings of my life.
There is so much more to be said about all this, but I am beginning to confuse myself, and am not sure where I want to go with these thoughts. My next post will likely focus on one of the points above in order to mine some richness out of it.
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Carol D. Marsh
- 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.