February 3

Today's quotation:

Our culture teaches us how to numb and distract ourselves but not how to listen to our pain and learn from our difficulties.  Think what we learn about pain from television.  We learn that pain is to be avoided at all costs and that there are a variety of pain relievers for every conceivable pain.  I would like to see a commercial that says, "Your pain is a great teacher.  Learn from it and be healed."

Bernie Siegel

Today's Meditation:

It can be rather difficult to think of pain as a teacher.  After all, we spend so much of our time and effort trying to avoid pain that seeing it as something good doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense.  As Bernie says, we take pills and use ointments and drink liquids to help us "deal with" pain, while the whole time the pain may be trying to tell us something important.  As a runner, I know that sometimes pain is telling me to stop running for a while, and that's certainly an important metaphor that can be applied to life and friendships and activities.

But also as a runner, I know that most of the pain I feel while running is simply that--a bit of pain.  I go through certain types of pain virtually every time I run, but I just run through it.  I pay attention to it, I decide whether it's severe enough to make me stop running, and then usually I just keep running.  Within a couple of minutes, it's gone of its own accord.  And that's also a metaphor that can be applied to life--the pain makes its own way out of my life.  I don't need to stop running, and I don't need to take any medications to dull it.  The best remedy for these types of pain is simply to keep on running.

It's a shame that we've been taught to throw drugs into our bodies at the first sign of pain.  Of course, they're often necessary if we're going to be able to concentrate and get on with our lives.  But often they're not, and because we dull the pain immediately, we never learn the lessons that the pain was supposed to teach us.  "Slow down," pain often says.  "Take better care of yourself."  "Eat better."  "Stop doing that!"  "You're using this body part in the wrong ways."  Pain has a lot to say, if we only listen to it.

How many people start drinking to "cope with" the pain, only to now have a new pain of alcoholism?  How many people are addicted to opioids because they weren't able to deal with some sort of physical pain?  Sometimes an outside agent is important for dealing with pain, but it does us much more good to learn how to deal with pain on its own terms, and to learn the lessons that it's trying to bring us.

Questions to consider:

Why is it so important to us to try to eliminate pain as soon as it shows up?

What kinds of lessons might we learn from the pains that we feel?

What are some other ways of dealing with pain that don't involve medications?

For further thought:

It is our own pain, and our own desire to be free of it, that alerts us to the suffering of the world.  It is our personal discovery that pain can be acknowledged, even held lovingly, that enables us to look at the pain around us unflinchingly and feel compassion being born in us.  We need to start with ourselves.

Sylvia Boorstein

more thoughts and ideas on pain



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