The Upside of Hitting the Fan
Woke up this week with yet another headache. Despite vigilant efforts to invite calm in the hours before bed, some mornings my aching body feels like it’s wrestled demons all night with gritted teeth. Once in a while, on days like this one, I hit the fan and dive head first into an impressive temper tantrum. WHY do I hurt so much? Why can’t I feel better? What if I NEVER feel better? Frustration usually boils down to leaky eyes, some version of a pity party and another exhausting swim in the ocean of fear. “If this is the best my endless efforts can produce,” I yell, “I’m out!” Not exactly a Buddha state of mind. In so many years of hunting for relief I’ve gathered a crazy long list of ways to do pain, far beyond the pill popping I learned growing up in a doctor’s house. Get a new mattress. A new pillow, a different new pillow. No, a different new pillow. Distract yourself. Exercise. Pray. Ask Jesus to take it. Get a blessing. Get a massage. Get acupuncture. Go to the chiropractor. Learn energy healing. Use oils. Serve others and forget about it. Drink green smoothies and stop eating sugar. And processed food. And gluten. Eat turmeric. Meditate. Visualize a healing light. Clear your chakras. Practice presence. Cry. Laugh. Lean into it. Tap on it. Breathe. Talk with it. Love it. Love your body. Love yourself. Clear out old shame and guilt. Forgive. Follow your joy. Dance. Be more authentic. Write. Swear. Hit something. Do yoga. I could go on. There’s been a gift in almost every one, sometimes an amazing gift, just not the one I was after. Talking to God keeps me sane. Meditation calms and centers me like nothing else can. Energy medicine raises my consciousness every time I engage. With each massage, I can feel Mother Earth's hands softening me up for more love. My gut feels better, I breathe deeper, love and joy come easier, and I resonate with loads less shame and guilt. I can even balance on my shoulders and wrap my whole hands under my feet in a forward fold, but I still hurt. Ah ha!, my mind reasons, it must be ME! I'm not doing any of these things well enough or with enough faith. Maybe I need to try harder and listen better. Maybe I need to stop trying and just let it happen. Maybe the NEXT thing I find will be it. Maybe my view of God is way off. It's never going to work. It's all working perfectly. I'm amazing. I'm pathetic. I'm getting somewhere. I'm getting nowhere. And around and around the monkey mind goes. It can almost be funny when I gather enough awareness to just watch rather than fall into its deep dark hole. At some point, my Godmind quietly steps into the room. Remember? You are not the aching back, the screaming neck, the headache. The cancer. Reminds me of slowly opening my eyes in yoga after a long time in corpse pose, a moment I can almost hear my soul whisper as it falls back into my muscles and bones, "Hold on to the truth of who you are. It will keep you from getting lost in the pain." It takes an amazing amount of presence to keep from identifying with your body, but I'm oh so grateful for my soul's nudging to keep trying. A mountain of relief comes with knowing we are not the pain we sometimes walk around in all day. I once read and fell in love with the idea that we come here to experience who we are not just so we can wake up to who we really are. For me, this is what cultivating a daily spiritual practice is all about - reminding myself I am not this body or this neurotic psychology, but a powerful loving drop-dead-gorgeous soul who is free to fly. Despite the creeping temptation to believe I've failed if I don't find a way out, God's working overtime to persuade me otherwise and help me release the blame I put on myself for causing the pain. I'm being given eyes to see that my body is simply mirroring the complex puzzle of moving parts that tell it to be this way, the accumulated effect of largely unconscious efforts to process the millions of environments I've traveled through from the womb to this chair I'm sitting in. When we look at ourselves and others through this lens, how can we fall into anything but forgiveness? There's still a lot more mystery in this journey than anything else, but I'm starting to get that I'm not ultimately in charge of how the pain got here or when it will go. My point of power is how I choose to perceive it in this moment. As I was reminded while listening to Gabby Bernstein, "We are not responsible for what our eyes are seeing. We are responsible for the way we perceive what we see." My heart knows consciousness and love are the most potent antidotes to this pain, and all pain. While neither can be forced, I can invite them over and over and over again, allow myself to be physically supported along the way, and at least be willing to play with surrendering to what is right now. Pain can be a masterful teacher, even when we hit the fan in reaction to it. Having current perceptions blow up in our face is sometimes the perfect push over the brink into a new vista, one with a few more grains of truth in it and a clearer path to dissolving the layer of psychological suffering that so often falls in behind what's actually happening. It's also a sincere invitation to drop all our weapons of self attack and take a long loving look into the face of our shadow - that part of us that doesn't want to get better, doesn't want to give up judgment and wants to stay in the familiarity of being addicted to fear and the illusion of control. As Gabby put it, "The most profound way to practice releasing resistance is to see clearly how we don't want to let it go." Believe me, I'd be ecstatic to trade pain in for a new teacher. My soul tells me it's possible for this body to feel better than it's ever felt before. In the meantime, I'll keep tapping into the truth of who I am and stay open to pain's endless invitations to come back home through places and spaces I've never been before.