My sister, Joan Sparks, is an accomplished musician, so I think of her when I read M.C. Richards' words about "approaching life as an artistic process." I love to see the way Joan's grace in performance translates into grace in how she lives her life, equally, through challenge and success.
When I read Richards' words for myself, I think of the way I live to approach my pain as a not artistic, certainly, but spiritual process. I have written about this often enough in previous posts (if you use the list to the right of this text frame, you can click on labels to get to other posts), so that I don't feel it necessary to go into great detail. However, there are a few tried-and-true -- meaning, tried by me and true for me -- methods that I use almost without conscious thought, so practiced are they.
Before I get to these practices, I want to say that, although I write about the physical pain of my migraines, I have also learned to use these practices with emotional pain as well. I would love to hear your thoughts about how you find my practices applicable to other kinds of pain.
"Seeing with a double eye," is what Richards says. "Living in the question," is how Mariechild responds. Here are ways I use to see my pain with a double eye, to live into the question (or the reality) of physical and emotional pain.
1. There is something about Elizabeth Kubler Ross' Stages of Grief that helps me feel more normal about my reactions to pain.
2. I use meditation aids such as deep muscle relaxation, stretching, mantras, chants and attention to the breath to take me out of the tense-bodied initial reaction to pain and into a deeper place -- "deep looking," as Mariechild calls it. (Click on the "methods" label to the right.)
3. When relaxed in body I am better able to put the pain into perspective. Not that the pain ceases, but it somehow becomes less overwhelming, not so central. I am breathing more deeply and in a state of quiet non-thought.
I live into the reality of my pain with a double eye: the pain is there and I must accept that reality; yet my spirit is also there and my desire for discovering what pain has to teach me is freed to explore. For me, this is what redeems the pain, and in some ways, my life.
I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Use the Comments box below, to start a conversation. 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.