For today's post I am going back to the reflection for May 27 (in Diane Mariechild's Open Mind -- Women's Daily Inspirations for Becoming Mindful), which I missed while busy with a school assignment.
She begins the reflection with a quote from Pema Chodron, one of my favorite spiritual writers:
"Taking refuge in the Buddha means that you are willing to spend your life acknowledging or reconnecting with your awakeness [sic], learning that every time you meet the dragon you take off more armor, particularly the armor that covers your heart."
That takes a lot of courage, to take off the armor with which we have protected ourselves, our hearts. It's difficult enough to do in relatively safe relationships and circumstances, let alone when we are meeting "the dragon."
And what is this dragon? Perhaps the dragon is whatever makes us fearful or angry or withdrawn: whatever we allow to move us away from our birthright of peacefulness and compassion.
In this sense, our pain -- physical and emotional -- can be viewed as a dragon. This week I had four consecutive days of migraine and, although I have been through such periods and longer many times, by the fourth morning I awakened frustrated and angry (quite naturally -- I do not blame myself for being upset at four days of pain) that the pain was still there. It took me a while in meditation to make friends with the pain, as I like to say; in Pema's words, to take off some armor.
So I gradually took off the armor of frustration and anger, those shields that I have created over a lifetime of sensitivity to hurt. And what is below or beyond the shields? Softness, vulnerability, quiet acceptance, reluctance to fight. That's why it takes courage to disarm before the dragon: we are left defenseless, or so it seems.
Yet if we can understand this defenselessness as courage to be awake, if we can accept the pain without any hard armor in that acceptance, then we have not only become more awake and thus softer, more compassionate, we have opened a lovely space in which to practice pain management skills. (See the list of Labels to the right for links to previous posts about pain management, methods and acceptance.)
We also have a lovely space in which to have compassion for our hurting selves.
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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.