One of our guiding principles to self care is inspired by the Taoist proverb to “prevent trouble before it arises”. We live into this ideal by purposely organizing our days around feel-good practices that reinforce stability in areas of weakness and flexibility in areas of tension. And we have learned to mine our personal pain projects to reveal hidden gems that channel transformative healing. We’d like to share some of these precious gems with you by exploring our relationship with pain, identifying common pitfalls of being mired in our pain body, and then sharing a practice that transforms pain-full experiences into a fuel source to ignite reliable and masterful self care practices.
What is Your Current Relationship with Pain?
Pain is subjective. The intensity of one person’s stubbed toe may be felt as another person’s crippling migraine. We all experience and express pain differently. Pain is a cacophony of physical, mental, and emotional impulses and often holds echos from the past. How we relate to pain depends on what’s causing it, how we feel about it, and all the other stories we add to it.
Pain Body Stories
Have you heard people lead conversations with a pain story? Do you know someone who is sure to notify everyone around them about their previous injuries and limitations from pain? We wonder if people use their pain stories as a way to connect, relate, or even receive attention. But what if recycling the same pain stories only reinforce and amplify the pain?
It’s not unusual for someone to build an identity and sense of sense around pain stories. Even before we open our eyes in the morning, still lying in bed, we might go searching for it: “Is it still there? Damn! There It is!!”Instead of getting locked into a hamster wheel of pain, we wonder, how can the pain of the past, and the inevitable pain of the future, spark our continued growth, expansion, and evolution?
“Pain is inevitable—suffering is optional” —Buddhist proverb
It’s been said that there are two darts of pain: a physical dart of pain, plus a mental dart of pain. Physically, we experience pain as a signal being transmitted through our nervous system that something has gone awry. Our body screams, “Ouch! Stop! Get Away!” Mentally, we experience pain through the interpretations, exaggerations, good-bad judgements and other stories we make up about the physical signal. Optional suffering is the result of mental darts of pain outliving the actual physical tissue damage. They are often perpetuated beyond the physical darts by reinforcing stories we tell ourselves like, “Why me?” “This isn’t fair!” “I’m never going to feel better.”
The first dart is inevitable—unfortunate stuff is going to happen, people are going to die, our body might hurt sometime. The second dart is optional, even avoidable. We can stop amplifying pain and hurling darts at ourselves by transmuting the blame, criticism, and complaint we heave onto our hurt and transform these darts into opportunities to learn, discover, and find value from our pain.
By changing how we think about something, we change how we experience it, including how much we suffer. The more we resist—the more it persists. Allowing and turning towards the pain creates space for healing and new possibilities to surface. To prevent trouble before it arises, we practice using pain as a way to empower and inform new ways of being. Pain can be a conduit for change. Are you willing to use your pain to ignite change?
The Shift Move is here: youtube
We serve ourselves best by not throwing mental darts at ourselves and instead allowing and including every feeling, thought, idea and sensation into our experience. Choose to repurpose the energy that goes into repeating, “I should feel better by now”, or “Why is this always happening to me”, into a radical and friendly acceptance practice. With patience, and deliberate practice you will be encircled by the glow of your own treasure trove of shining magical gemstones. You may notice how much more energy you have, how much more positive feelings you enjoy, and how you become a living example of loving kindness. Shine On!