The Art of Pain Management

tumblr_lvpkabbZdg1r66w8uo1_500

A couple of months ago I was talking to a sangha friend of mine about the nature of physical pain.  Knowing that I’ve been focusing diligently on the cultivation of joy over the last few years and that I’ve experienced a great deal of physical pain in relation to my chronic illnesses he asked me specifically what I did to deal with pain and how to cultivate joy in the midst of it.  As I see this as a common struggle (knowing how to deal with ongoing physical pain, limitation, and illness) I thought I’d take to writing about it, as that often helps me to better understand things for myself as well.

It’s important to note that I spent years doing the “wrong” things when it came to dealing with physical pain.  Doing the wrong things was what helped me to know and understand what the right things to do were.  By wrong I mean I caused more harm to myself and those around me.  By wrong I mean I wasn’t taking good care of myself and was embittered with anger, sadness, loss, guilt, and hopelessness to the point of becoming debilitated and unpleasant to be around.

So what do I do now to embrace the difficult nature of physical pain and practice joy?  Let’s see..

Continue reading

Basking

1182083f69e721613a4aa22a15bf9a47

After I saw my thirteen year-old out the door this morning on his walk to school I did a few minutes of sitting meditation embraced in a warm spring sun beam shining in through my bedroom window.  I felt my posture stable and relaxed soaking up the sun as my lips curved to form a gentle smile.

After my meditation I headed out to do some childcare for some friends of mine.  They have a five-year old boy and a recently turned 2-year old girl.  Before I was injured and contracted a nerve disease which qualified me for disability a few years ago I was a nanny and before that I worked in pre-schools and day cares.  I love hanging out with kids.  They have much wisdom and much to teach.

I spent my day making up silly songs about underwear falling down (to the tune of London Bridge), since the 5-year old, like many boys his age, enjoys toilet humor, negotiating healthy snacks and a proper lunch to kids who would rather eat popsicles and pizza for every meal, playing frisbee with suction cups in hand (an idea sparked by the five-year old), and trying to convince the 2-year old that bugs were not bad.  I also fielded many 5-year old budding questions such as, “Why do you wear the same clothes everyday?” and in response to my bowing in gratitude to my plate of food at lunch, “What are you doing?”

528166_576641799021980_1038569027_n

Indeed I have been wearing the same clothes everyday now since November.  I have two pairs of the exact same style and color of dark brown pants and about five or six of the exact same style and color moss green shirt.  I commended him for his awareness and explained how I enjoy the simplicity of having only one outfit.  He seemed to understand and then asked me how many pairs of shoes I owned, to which I answered, “I have three pairs of shoes.  These ones I’m wearing (my crocs which I wear most often), my snow boots, and a pair of motorcycle boots (which I only wear when I’m on my bike of course).”

I also enjoyed talking to him more about why I give thanks to my food before I eat.  With a really puzzled expression on his face he asked, “Do you thank your food EVERY time you eat?” to which I answered, “Yes, I do!”  Unlike the having one outfit conversation it took him longer to begin understanding this concept of thanking the food.  I spoke with him about how having food was a gift and that not everyone in the world had enough food to eat.  Then I mentioned how the farmers had to grow the peanuts for the peanut butter and strawberries for the jelly, how the trucks had to work to transport the food to the stores, and about all the different workers involved in helping bring the food to our plates.  After briefly explaining all of that he said, “OR you could just go to the store and get the food,” to which I asked, “But how does the food get there?”  He thought about it for a moment and then I said, “We need the farmers and the trucks and all the people to get the food to the stores.  Without all of those people we’d have no food in the stores.  That’s why I like to give my thanks to the food.”

A productive day I would say!  Kids have a beautiful and simply way of communicating and they are in every moment always ready to absorb and learn and grow.

Reflecting on the day the practice of present moment, wonderful moment was alive and strong.  I feel gratitude coursing through me for youth, playfulness, the sun, laughter, silliness, good questions, and taking the time to stop and literally smell the blooming flowers.  And now in the solitude of night under a clear dark sky I am enjoying the ease of a clean and quiet house.