Make Peace With Your Pain

Mindful walking. Completed and signed by Prabhakara. Singapore artist.

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last entry on this topic, and there has been some rather dramatic progress in a few areas that I think are worth bringing to these pages.

As mentioned before, I have been ordered by my doctors to walk every day for reasons that are unimportant for now. While this may sound good on paper, the reality is that there is a downside: all of this exercise and physical activity has woken up a great many body parts that have been severely underutilized for far too many years. As such, old pain joined forces with new pain to become my partners in this new health journey I have been encouraged to embark upon. For the sake of continuing the metaphor, consider the pain as a new coworker whose hiring was a management decision over which I had no control… despite the fact that I got stuck with having to do the training.

In this context my pain has become an integral part of my daily activity… my steady companion if you will… for each and every step I take on this stretch of life’s road.

So it has been, these past few weeks during which I have tried to be mindful as I walk (while focusing on being “in the moment”) and immerse myself only in those things my “happy” senses report back to me such as the sound of the birds or the cars passing by or the children in the playground or feeling the warmth of the sun on my face. ) It didn’t take long to discover, unfortunately, that becoming a mindfulist isn’t as easy as it sounds; at my young level of development it is an impossibility to ignore the “unhappy” sensory reports from – in my case – the painful muscles and joints while listening only to the other senses. This is because these, also, are part of each moment I am trying to immerse myself in as I mindfully walk… And I can assure you that they will not be ignored.

Let not your hearts be troubled; there’s good news ahead.

In the early days of my new walking regimen, it was quite the conundrum; choose which moment to be in-the the pain moment or the meditative moment-but this cannot be done because, for all intents and purposes these things really can’t be separated from each other.

They are conjoined.

And for what it’s worth, I think that-in some cases at least-the same can be said about emotional pain here as well.

What follows may not work for some of you, depending on your maladies, so …YMMV … but if you can, you should try to:

Make peace with your pain.

Listen to it.
Respect it.
Embrace what it’s telling you.
Accommodate it, but be firm with it – make sure it knows who’s in charge.
Demand that it fully cooperate with you.

Most of all, be every bit as patient with it as you are teaching yourself to be with every other aspect of your own mindfulness journey.

How, you ask?

Sadly, I’m over my self-imposed maximum word count so I will have to close for now with a promise to dedicate my next entry to the things that I have successfully done in my own case. As a teaser, however, let me leave you with this piece of news: six weeks ago-on my maiden walking voyage-I couldn’t walk more than 30 yards without having to stop until my pain eased enough to continue. As of today I’m walking over two miles and – although the pain remains-we have come to understand each other well enough now that I only stop eight times per walk, and only where I choose to pause.

The way I see it, I am choosing when the pain can rest and regroup rather than empowering the pain to make that call for us.

[Image courtesy of pabha.com and Harvard Health blog]

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