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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.

10 May 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: Self-Identity and Pain

Diane Mariechild's reflection for yesterday, April 9 (in Open Mind -- Women's Daily Inspirations for Becoming Mindful), says this:

"Usually we identify ourselves by...work...age...where we live, sexual identity...cherished beliefs and opinions. The labels we attach to ourselves can be useful in moving through the world. Trouble begins when we become attached to these definitions and believe in the absolute existence of this separate self."

My previous post is about the concept of No-Self and how I use it to enhance pain management practice. This reflection takes that concept a step further: how our labeling of our Self causes us suffering by giving us stories that make the Self real. As I said before, this concept is alien to the Western mind and difficult for me to explain. Use the links provided in my previous post for information about No-Self.

The point Mariechild makes is that all our labels reinforce the idea that we possess a Self that is solid, always there and always ours. This leads to suffering.

The point I make is that our pain labels cause us suffering by making our pain worse, or at best, making pain management more difficult. When I think only about the pain, how awful it is and how it is ruining my life, I add emotional suffering to the physical pain; I give it all my attention and allow it to overwhelm all other perceptions.

But when I let go of identifying with the pain I am able to broaden my perceptions. I do this with meditation, visualization, deep relaxation, deep breathing, or any combination of these that works in the moment. (You can read past posts about these methods by using the Labels column to the right and clicking on the words method, or inhabit the body, or relaxation.)

When I allow my pain Self to dissolve, the result is not so much that the pain goes away as that it is put into perspective. From the still, peaceful, very broad and deep place that my practice puts me, I experience the pain as less important, not overwhelming, insignificant somehow.

Thus my pain management becomes a spiritual practice that takes me to the place of connectedness with that which is larger, encompassing, inclusive, mystical. Christians and Jews speak of this place as being with God; Buddhists call it No-Self; other spiritualities -- Native American, for example -- describe the world as animated with the Creation Spirit that connects us all. 

However, lest I sound like some kind of pain management saint, I will admit that there are times when I just want to lie still and be distracted. I put on a Seinfeld DVD and veg out. All this noble talk about meditation and spirituality is fine, but some days you just want something else.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.


I would love to hear from you. Please click on  the envelope, below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com. Thank you.

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