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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.

04 June 2012

"The Power of Now" and Pain: Waiting

Twentieth in a series

"To stay present in everyday life, it helps to be deeply rooted within yourself; otherwise the mind, which has incredible momentum, will drag you along like a wild river...[Rooted within yourself] means to inhabit your body fully.  To always have some of your attention in the inner energy field of your body."  Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now, page 94

I have posted before about the seeming conundrum -- for those of us living with chronic pain, anyway -- in Tolle's teachings about inhabiting the body: here and here, for example.  In today's post, I want to go a bit further than the "why would I want to inhabit this body that is causing me so much pain?" question, and talk about waiting as an aspect of being deeply rooted in our pain-filled selves.

Tolle advocates for a kind of alert waiting, a deep presence to one's body and to the world that transcends the "egoic mind" and so places us in a state of awareness in which we are most fully ourselves.  There is a rich spiritual tradition across religions for this state of being:

* Zen Buddhism speaks of satori, the essence of Zen that is the ultimate goal and indication of enlightenment.  It is also called no mind.

* Jesus tells parables of the bridesmaids waiting with their lamps so that they don't miss the bridegroom and the wedding; and of the waiting servant who "...stays awake, alert, poised, still, lest he miss the master's arrival." page 95

* Hindus developed the practice of yoga, the goal of which is to unite the human with the divine by way of the body/self.  Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity. We need only be awake, alive in the present moment. -Thich Nhat Hanh-

So there's a sense of presence, of awareness that, while serene, still holds an element of anticipation, of waiting, of allowing the body in its awake state to be a conduit to the divine. 

What does waiting mean to those of us who are daily attended by pain?

It means that we nurture the world around and beyond and within our bodies rather than narrow our focus to the endless ache.  It means that we then let this broader sense of what life offers us to ever so slightly reduce the meaning and the significance of our pain.  And it means that, as we welcome and enter into that which is sacred, our pain takes its relative place: not cured, but relegated, so that we are finding our way through and with our pain.

Thus, we embody the paradox, and our pain-racked bodies become not the barrier to but the conductor of the sacred within and without.

But when it gets really bad, we take a pill and go to bed, because while we may be pilgrims, we are not masochists.

It's about balance.



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

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