One (Small) Way to Deal with Pain
Physical pain. Something we all deal with at one time or another. Part of the human condition, unfortunately.
My most recent adventure with pain began with a single (mis)step on Thanksgiving Day. You know, out for an invigorating early morning walk along the river near my sister's place. Big temperature difference between central Virginia and northern Connecticut. Tense with the cold. And no warm up. And—ouch! a stab of pain in my hip/groin area. But I walked anyway. I hadn't had much exercise and I knew the next few days would present an ongoing fiesta of outrageously delicious food and drink.
Though a little painful, it was a lovely walk, complete with a breathtaking display of three Canada geese, flying a couple of feet above the rapids in the early morning light, coming around the bend and winging up the river until they were out of sight. An image I still delight to remember. But unfortunately, that didn't take care of the injury. Which is still bothering me. A lot sometimes. Even though I've started physical therapy.
A dear friend reminded me that when you have pain, you—naturally—tend to focus on it. But then you become even more aware of it. So then you focus on it more, and so on. And, of course, if you are more aware of the pain you are pretty likely to tense up more, trying to guard against it or stave it off. Which can intensify the pain. Not a nice cycle.
She reminded me that a very simple, though not necessarily easy, way to move out of that cycle, at least a little bit, is to remember your feet. Simply become aware of them. And then let that awareness be a gateway to feeling sensation in your entire body, gently. Unless, of course, it is your feet that hurt. Then you can remember your hand, or your arm or your head. Some other part of your body, which can become a doorway into remembering your entire body. Or you can rub your arm or your thighs gently—anything that helps your consciousness move a little beyond that immediate awareness of the painful area.
This may only last a few seconds but it can help shift away from a total focus on the pain. And then you can repeat it, as often as you like. If you feel so inclined, it can become a meditation, a mode of mindfulness.
And if you can, let that awareness of your body lead to wonder and gratitude. As I said, this may not be easy. But take a look at this little guy here.
See the gentle wonder. And his "wow, I have this body. I can do things with it." A great attitude at any time. And perhaps especially when one is hurting. You might remember him if you choose to try this experiment.
Doing this helps remind me that I am more than the pain. Instead of the pain containing me, I can, at least momentarily, become a container for the pain, which robs it of some of its power. And so it becomes an opportunity, if I can only remember.
I hope your holiday celebrations have been and will be blessed with joy and simplicity, with laughter and connection.
Next time I'll talk about the miracle of our skin, physically and spiritually.
Feet: Toa Heftiba, unSplash
Little boy: Henry Gillis, unSplash