We spend so much time and energy avoiding pain, don't we? We wear comfortable shoes and sleep in comfortable beds. We guard our hearts and protect our bodies from injury. So it seems quite ridiculous to say that there is a gift in pain.
The first person to suggest to me that there is a gift in pain was my yoga teacher, Pam Guido. She told me that I would be grateful for my physical pain and for my own limitations because it would cause me to intimately learn about how to care for such limitations with Yoga and it would not only make me more compassionate towards students with similar challenges, but it would also make me a better teacher overall. Of course her wise words were completely true. But the “gift” of pain is even larger than that.
Pain makes us seek out solutions. Pain propels us forward with more force than happiness does. Pain oftentimes gives us the push we need to get where we are supposed to be.
The pain of stress and discrimination was the push I needed to get a better job again and again. Each new job was an improvement upon the last and helped me to fine tune my ideas of what I really wanted to do for a living and how I wanted to do it.
The pain of 2 herniated discs (and the resulting excruciating sciatic nerve pain) caused by 3 freak accidents in the past have provided me with a wonderful opportunity to learn more about my body and also about several branches of the healing arts. This past flare-up has been the worst one ever, and so therefore has given me the biggest push forward. Desperate to be free from this constant pain, I scrambled for a solution. In addition to specific yoga practices that I have relied upon for years, I am now also under the care of both an Ayurvedic Doctor and a Physical Therapist. Additionally I am currently taking an online course on Yoga for Pain Relief and also receiving Reiki treatments from an amazing woman. In those Reiki sessions I am reminded that wounds of the heart can manifest in the body. So with the help of 4 amazing humans; the Ayurvedic Doctor, the Physical Therapist, the Yoga Teacher and the Reiki Practitioner, I am learning how to heal my body and soul. And this is more than short term relief. All of this is adding up to long term healing of the root causes. Can you imagine, after so many years of “just dealing with it” and managing as best I could with each flare-up, now I actually believe that true healing is possible. That is an incredible gift, and yes it was the gift of pain. Terrible pain. The worst physical pain of my life that was nonstop for FOUR MONTHS. But LOOK where it pushed me! I have learned so much and have met wonderful people along the way. I must admit that during the very worst days and nights of agony, if anyone had suggested to me that my pain was a “gift” I would've required a lot of self control to hold back a storm of ugly words. Maybe that is where you are now. I understand. If pain is a gift then I hope it came with a receipt so I can return it, right? I get it. But in retrospect we can see that when we are willing to face our pain it becomes an incredible force for change, for growth, for forward movement.
I might even suggest that it was pain itself that pushed me halfway across the world to India. How could that be? Well first, several years ago, I had to face the pain of betrayal in my past relationship. Then I had to face the painful truth that trust broken will never be made strong again. I had to face the pain of ending, of parting and of starting over. I had to face the pain of fear as I ventured out on my own for the first time in two decades. I had built my life on that relationship so there was a lot of deconstructing and reconstructing of my ideas of self worth, my values and my priorities that needed to happen. It was a terrible pain. The kind of soul pain that makes you wish you could peel off this human coat just to be free from the agony of being alive.
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” - Mary Oliver
It certainly didn’t feel like a gift. It felt like a curse. And yet there was a gift in that pain. I had to stand on my own. I had to face fears and grow in courage and strength beyond what I previously imagined possible. I became a businesswoman. I bought a yoga studio. I met an amazing man who held my heart through my times of fear and doubt. He reminded me that I am stronger than I know. He continually pushed me out of my comfort zone only for the benefit of my own growth. Although he lived on the other side of the world in India, we communicated daily. He was a sounding board and wise counsel for my business decisions. He was my spiritual peer and my encourager. He was everything I imagined that a BIG love would be. Five years later he became my husband. What a wonderful, unexpected journey, all because I was willing to face mountains of pain and use it to move forward.
Despite the title of this blog, I actually don’t believe that pain is a gift. I do not believe that there is any inherent gift in pain. I do not believe that people who hurt you are actually giving you a gift in disguise. I believe that, just like with everything else in life, we can use pain to grow, to transform and to move forward. Plenty of people suppress their pain of body, mind and spirit. Plenty of people choose not to face it, choose not to accept it and choose not to transform it. There is no gift in pain. The gift is in you. The gift is your ability to work with pain, to let it teach you and guide you. The gift is your resilience, your courage, your determination. Pain, that feels so unbearably heavy when we are in it, is actually like a light that shines upon all these aspects of yourself that maybe were forgotten for a while. Pain comes to remind you of your power and your purpose. It asks you to refocus your attention on the things that matter most. It shows you that the gift is already in you, ready to be unwrapped and explored as your next adventure unfolding.
The next time you are feeling the grip of pain, whether it be in body, mind or spirit, imagine that this is a message from your higher self, or your higher power, trying to get your attention. What is it calling you to do? Do you need to make time for self care? Do you need to let go of the past? Do you need to muster your courage for a new future? Or do you just need to slow down and remember to enjoy all the small things?
Up to this point I have written about the power of pain as a force to move us forward, and while that is true, I want to remind you of one more thing before I close. I want to remind you that the power of love is the strongest. Self love gives us the strength to face our pain, to look at the ugly parts of our life and to accept it. It is love that gives us the ability to believe in positive change. It is love that gives us the wisdom and willingness to transform our pain into a path to move forward, to grow in compassion, and become all that we are meant to be.
One day maybe I will learn how to do things the easy way. Instead of being pushed along, kicking and screaming and full of resistance, down the path that leads to where I am meant to be, maybe I will learn how to travel with more grace, wisdom and joy. Maybe I will no longer require the force of pain to advance to the next level. But until that day arrives I will try to remember that pain is a valuable teacher, giving me the opportunity to explore new directions and to learn more about myself and the world.
Can you recall a time when pain pushed you into a better place? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.
Lots of love,
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