I had to teach Meg something contrary to her style of being in the world. She just wasn't going to be able to conquer her pain. She'd have to harmonize with it. For a bold spirit like Meg, this would be no easy task. Nor was this issue hers alone. So often in medicine we have it backwards. We attempt to repair the body without consulting it. Pain has its own spirit, language, intelligence, and rhythm. Pain is absolutely alive. It will speak to you, not in the usual sense but on an intuitive level. First, open up communication. Odd as it may seem, ask your pain-or any illness for help. Healing is collaboration, an opportunity to learn from a sometimes demanding but most enlightened master. Approach your pain with deep respect. If you do, it will respond, point the way toward getting well.
These practices gave Meg the courage to mend past wounds and change present behaviors. It allowed compassion into many areas of her life. She never expected that part of her healing would be to allow other people to support her: letting a friend drive to the movies; asking a stranger to carry her bags when traveling. Meg's success wasn't only that her back pain subsided. Much about her started to melt: her rigidity, her tendency to beat herself up whenever she'd make a mistake, her impulse to give to others rather than take time to savor or receive. She has become more mindful of beauty. The glistening sunlit boughs of magenta bougainvillea arcing over her front porch don't go unnoticed anymore. Of course, Meg didn't achieve this overnight, but an extraordinary new pattern had begun. Self compassion is the most enduring antidote to pain or illness I know, a kind of oxygen that can revitalize. Moving toward it is a lifelong path.
Your body also gives you leads about recovering from pain or illness through its internal pictures. If you get sick you may have to undergo certain tests-X rays, ultrasound, CT scans, MRIS, or endoscopy - some more grueling than others but all with their intuitive upside. I'd like you to begin to consider these tests a training ground where you can learn to zero in intuitively. I can't overemphasize the importance of having a distinct mental image of the part of you that needs to be healed. These tests offer you that. Their visuals are structural reference points that further ground you in your body.
Intuitive healing is always body-interactive. Why not put your medical procedures to intuitive good? Why deny yourself such an asset? When traveling in a foreign country, wouldn't you prefer to have a guidebook? I know tests can be scary, especially if something is wrong. Even so, don't miss the magic of seeing into your body, a connector between you and the substance of which you are made. The martial arts concept of mu-shin, or "no mind," means no separation between mind and body. Power flows from this unity. Our physical self, our emotions, a healthy body or an organ with disease-our capacity to heal strengthens as we become one with it all.
Meeting The Master:
A Meditation For Dealing With Pain and Illness
- Relax into the discomfort. Don't try to change it or rid yourself of it. Simply let the pain be. Gently breathe through any tightening, fear, resistance. Loosen your grip. Get to know the geography of your pain. Map it out. Become familiar with it.
- Intuitively tune in to the discomfort. Does it have color? Texture? Emotion? Is it hot? Cold? Does it move or stay in one place? Do you notice images? Sounds? Scents? Memories? Ask the discomfort: What can I learn from you? How can I case my pain?
- Focus lightly on the discomfort. Feel it completely. As you inhale, breathe all your pain in. Visualize it as a cloud of dark smoke. Let it flow throughout your body, right to the core of your compassion. Now picture every last bit of the black smoke dissolving, purified by love. As you exhale, imagine this love as clear white light. Send it back to your area of discomfort. Breathe in pain. Breathe out compassion. Breathe in pain. Fill the pain with the healing breath of compassion.