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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.

14 November 2011

"The Power of Now" and Pain Management: One

Eckhart Tolle's writings have had a profound effect on my emotional and spiritual life for over a decade.  Within the past year, I realized that I am now primarily relating his teachings to the practice of pain management and the realities of living with chronic pain.  So it seems natural to begin a series of posts about Tolle's writings, in particular, "The Power of Now."

This first post will briefly (I am now on the fourth day of a migraine, and my resources are low) discuss some reasons for creating the series, as well as propose an overall structure.

When I cite quotations with page numbers, I refer to the New World Library / Namaste Publishing edition (1999) that was reprinted in 2004. 

I'll go chapter by chapter, although will not discuss every concept therein.  I'll pick out what is most relevant to my own pain management and the spirituality of living with chronic pain.

Although Tolle explicitly avoids proposing a spirituality, or religion, or belief system - and that is one of the reasons I love his writing so much - he does use examples from world religions such as Christianity and Buddhism.  But he does not expouse or proselytize for any particular religion.  Neither do I.

He also uses terminology that is as neutral as he can make it because he is speaking to all of us about eternal truths:

"This book can be seen as a restatement for our time of that one timeless spiritual teaching, the essence of all religions.  It is not derived from external sources, but from the one true Source within, so it contains no theory or speculation."  Introduction, final paragraph, page 10

This is appealing to me for many reasons, but for the purposes of this blog, the appeal has to do with the unifying nature of pain: Muslims suffer pain as do Hindi as do Native Americans and so on.  In my posts, I shall strive to follow Tolle's example - and my own habit thus with this blog - by writing in as inclusive a way as possible while still focusing on spirituality and spiritual health.

As I have said before, I do not claim to be an expert.  Nothing in this series or in this blog is meant to be taken as expert advice or as a substitute for professional care.  Anyone with chronic pain should be under the care of a medical professional.

My next post will be about two concepts from the Introduction (pp 3-10): freedom from esnlavement to the mind; and consciousness without identification with form.

I am excited about beginning this series, which I have been planning for many months.  And I look forward to your comments and emails.

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

01 November 2011

Meditation for (Distracted) Dummies (Like Me): Part Two

This post is a follow-up to my October 6, 2011 post. 

A lunch-time conversation yesterday with a friend brought the subject up again: many of us believe that meditation is supposed to result in a blissfully clear mind, unfettered by thoughts, worries, or remembering.  And when we fail to acheive that, we give up on meditation, saying we can't do it right and even feeling inadequate for our failure.

Because meditation is so important a part of my pain management practice, and because it only brings me to a blissfully clear mind about 2% of the time (at best), I have learned for myself that meditation does not have to feel "right" to be effective.  It does not seem to matter whether I come out of a session feeling that it was a good one (whatever that means), or feeling that it was a flop because my mind never shut up: the benefits for pain management are none the less real to me. 

When we turn to the silence within, we take the lid off of the cauldron of worries, fears and thoughts otherwise hidden by busy-ness, noise, addictions and avoidance.  In that sense, meditation leads us to and through parts of our spirits and minds that we otherwise deny and ignore.  No wonder we don't often feel blissfully calm during meditation! 

There's another reason to persist in a daily meditation practice.  Any major world religion that I have investigated stresses the importance of meditation, although the word used may be different.  It's not just the eastern religions:
  • Christians call it centering prayer.
  • One site I saw said that Jews meditate for intellectual focus, among other things, and also to acheive a state called "eyin," or nothingness.
  • There are YouTube videos for Baha'i meditation
  • Native Americans practice meditation in many forms, all based on the sacred connection to Mother Earth and the Great Spirit.  The rituals, such as sage-buring, are beautiful, too.
  • The Sufi Muslims practice zikr meditation, zikr meaning "remembrance of God."
  • According to Wikipedia, Samayika in Jainism, means being in the moment in continuous real time.
There are, of course, many more world religions, but I provide these few examples to make a point: meditation is a wide-spread practice understood by centuries of wise persons to be essential to spiritual growth and enlightenment.  Who am I to argue with them, or to decide their wisdom does not apply to me?

In my next post, I'll write about why I believe meditation benefits me spiritually and for pain management even though I rarely have a silent mind while meditating.

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