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Life in the Trenches: On Wanting Pain to Leave

Posted Feb 14 2013 2:00am

Pain Here I am, a mind-body coach, and ever since I gave birth to my daughter, Aela, in August, I have had the hardest time with my own mind-body relationship. If you read my last blog post , you know a bit already about my journey. In that post, I talked about how I’m dealing with my current experience, which includes physical pain and my giant resistance to that physical pain. ARGH.

Which reminds me that this is always the hardest part for my clients, too. It can be so frustrating. Here we are, in this moment, with whatever we don’t want. Maybe it’s extra weight. Maybe it’s pain. Maybe it’s anxiety. Maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is, we want to move away from it, make it change, control it, or beat it with a baseball bat. Well, at least I do!

Sadly, that does not work. Despite my extensive experience with befriending physical pain, anxiety, fear, and extra weight and my arsenal of helpful mind-body tools, I have had the hardest time surrendering to this physical experience I’m having. I’m kind of stubborn.

Instead of being friendly toward the pain, I’ve been kind of grudgingly using my Core Anamsong Mind-Body Practice , while swearing angrily at my body. (Kudos to my body for actually giving me messages while being so treated.)

The problem is that I know I can’t focus on getting rid of the pain. It can’t be the end goal. I can’t wait to live my life when I feel better, because life is happening right now. So, in addition to everything else, I’ve also been beating myself up for being so ridiculously angry and resistant to this pain. I’ve expected myself to be doing my mind-body thing with aplomb and dignity, befriending my pain with serene, loving calm. While, in reality, I’ve sobbed on the phone with friends, wept on my mother’s shoulder, fallen apart daily, and generally been a hot mess. I’ve been a tad bit hard on myself.

Then, I finally took a page out of my own book (literally!).  For the past two weeks, I decided to try something revolutionary. I decided to be kind to myself and allow myself to be really, really, really angry at this experience. And to allow myself to want it to go away. And to be awful at my own mind-body practice. And to be exactly as I am, hot mess and all. All I asked of myself is that I keep using the practice, badly or not. I asked that I keep moving through emotions and keep accessing the wisdom my body is giving me.

So there I was, angry at the experience and sucking at my own mind-body practice. I resisted like mad. I got obsessed with my pain. I did all the same things I’ve been doing for five months – except I stopped beating myself up for the way I’ve been doing them.

As a result, an interesting thing happened.

I started to see things a little differently. I could look back and see where I have listened to my body’s messages. I have moved forward a lot on this current path, even in my frustration. I realized I’m hearing messages daily from my body, and I’m still following them, even if I’m angry at my body. I saw that those messages are adding up. It’s like my body is giving me clues in a scavenger hunt, one at a time.  And even in my resistance, I’ve also not resisted.

A new insight popped in this week. I notice that every time I’m super obsessed with getting rid of my physical pain, I need to connect with my body and feel through a rising emotion. Sometimes it’s anger, sometimes it’s sadness, and sometimes it’s fear – or a mix of all three. If I let them all happen, on the other side is the message from my body.

The obsessive thoughts about the pain are like a red flag, letting me know some wisdom is ready to emerge via emotion. Sometimes I resist. But it’s ok, because the message is still there for me, whenever I’m ready for it. When I allow the emotions to flow, my body speaks.

You need more rest, it says.

You need to reach out to this person for support, it says.

You need to talk to your spouse about that thing he said yesterday, it says.

You need to read that book, it says.

You must trust yourself, it says.

 Every day, it gives me more and more information. More clues in this scavenger hunt.

 So what’s the prize in this scavenger hunt? The focus on pain relief or getting rid of what I don’t want just doesn’t work. It can’t. Because right now, I’m in pain. Right now, you’re in whatever you’re in. Here we are. To reject what’s happening now makes the suffering much greater. We can want pain relief. We can want to lose weight. We can want and even expect these things. But we have to focus on the connection to ourselves, to our emotions, to our bodies, and to our souls…in between the times when we don’t, of course…

…which leads to the good news I want to share. You don’t have to be perfect at that focus. You can really stink it up. You can be a hot mess. You can obsess. You can do your mind-body practice terribly.

You will still end up connecting to yourself, and you will still be guided by the incredible wisdom of your body. In fact, trying to do it perfectly slows the process down. (I can vouch for that first hand, having just experienced five months of it!)

Which leads me to even better news: you can have the prize right now. The scavenger hunt, the little nuggets of guidance from your body – those ARE the prize. That’s what creates a sense of wholeness, a sense of stability, even in the biggest of storms. That’s what we’re really looking for when we want the storm to go away.

We want the storm to leave right now, so that we can feel a certain way. Sometimes it might be peaceful, or content, or joyous. I don’t know about you, but I’ve wanted to feel good about myself. I’ve wanted to feel like a strong, whole, confident, me.

So yes, I have wished the storm away. But when I have befriended it, quite imperfectly, I have surrendered to it. I have let it sweep through my life and destruct what needed destruction. I have allowed myself to fall apart, in order to be rebuilt. I have let everything show me how it wants to be rebuilt. My body is asking for a rebuilding. It wants me to work with it differently and stop ignoring important inner truths. My relationships are asking for a rebuild. My business is asking for a rebuild. My mind-body coach training is asking for a rebuild. My soul is asking me to rebuild my sense of self.

The prize is learning to stand in the storm and let it wash through my life, bringing me a much deeper connection with myself. The prize is letting go of the ways I held myself away from others, afraid of being seen as emotional, messy, or imperfect. I didn’t know that I had to be a mess to find out I’m actually ok. My favorite message from my body is this: I get to be me.

There will always be storms. Some will be hurricanes. Others will not. I can push away the storms, resist them, and fight them. But when I’m ready, I can let them in and let them bring wisdom, truth, and necessary change to my life. That is the ongoing prize of imperfect, messy, and incredibly magical mind-body work.

This week, I listened to my body just that much more. I felt a little less resistance. I trusted myself a little bit more. I felt like a very strong boat floating in the stormy seas. I am tossed around by the waves. I am buffeted by gale-force winds. Sometimes I want out of the storm. Other times, I surrender to it and all that it’s bringing me.

Here I am, in this moment, exactly as I am.  I get to be me.


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