Nineteenth in a series.
At the end of my previous post, I wrote: "So, how to maintain and nurture our right minds, enhancing our pain management skills and letting pain take us to spiritual enlightenment? I will explore some strategies in my next post."
What was I thinking? Who thinks she can explain all that at all, let alone in one post? Way too ambitious, I realize, now that I come to actually write the post. I must pull back on my expectations.
I think I'll just stick with the word, "strategies."
Here are pain management strategies that I use and that also enhance my spiritual life. Indeed, I often use them interchangeably:
I have posted about meditation here and here, and you will find other posts if you click on the meditation label in the column to the right. So I am not going to repeat what is in them today. But what I want to remark on today is how meditation and other calming practices (prayer beads, quiet reflection, small rituals -- as described in the second link, above), form a lovely, symbiotic relationship between pain management skills and spiritual growth.
Here's how it worked for me: I began meditation strictly as a spiritual practice; after a few years, and as my migraines worsened, I noticed that I felt better -- calmer, more relaxed, more accepting of the reality of my pain -- after meditating; I began using meditation tools such as deep breathing, mantras and focusing the mind when I was in pain; meditation for pain became meditation for spiritual growth became meditation for pain...
Another way to describe it is to say that bringing spiritual tools to pain management brought spirituality into pain management. With chronic pain, the result is that spirituality pervades all of one's life: something I have longed for and tried to make happen with no success. But here it is, having snuck up on me through the back door labeled, Migraines.
DEEP RELAXATION and INHABITING THE BODY
I have posted about deep relaxation and inhabiting the body here, and there are other posts to read if you click on the relaxation label in the column to the right.
For today -- and briefly, because an on-coming migraine is affecting my ability to think and type -- the point about relaxation and paying attention to (or, inhabiting) one's body, is that there is a paradox here that leads us to a deep spiritual truth. And that is this: when we fully inhabit our bodies, allowing muscles to relax, feeling our pain with judgment or fear, and feeling the fullness of life that is within, then we come closest to God. Or Allah, or Jehovah, or Brahma, or the Divine, or the Now, or the Creator, or whatever we choose or have been taught for naming our Source.
Eckhart Tolle, in his book, The Power of Now, tells us that presence is a "higher dimension of consciousness" that opens the door to the Now. And he says that the body is a portal to presence:
"Observe the rhythm of your breathing; feel the air flowing in and out, feel the life energy inside your body. Allow everything to be [yes, even your pain - cdm], within and without."
The Hindu practice of yoga is a means to spiritual enlightenment through the body. Some Christians practice body prayer. Jewish spirituality includes sitting Shivah after a death; a way to express mourning with the body. There are, I am sure, many more religions that use the body as an entry to spiritual understanding and growth. It works for pain as well.
And that is all I am capable of for now: it is time to practice some pain management skills and enhance my spiritual life.
I would love to hear from you. Please use the Comment link below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
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.