I’ve come to understand that pain is a part of our human condition. It’s completely subjective with each human being experiencing it in different ways. Personally, I’ve had my share of pain. In my early twenties I was diagnosed with endometriosis which causes severe pain in the abdomen. Later that pain turned into deep muscle and joint pain in my hips. One thing I know for sure is that in the same way that joy is inevitable so is pain. I’ve always taken the view that we know we are going to have pain, it may come, it may go, it may stay but it’s part of being human. I’ve told my students that true spirituality is honouring our humanness. To practice spirituality in the modern age is to fill our lives with activities that feed our soul. In this sense, accepting pain is another way of honouring our humanness.
I’ve tried pain killers, herbal teas and everything western medicine can offer. But my top choice for physical pain is massage. Most people think it’s an expense they can’t afford. However, often what happens after your first massage is you don’t even realize how much pain you were in until it’s relieved. All of the sudden you are able to think more clearly and feel your mood lifting. Pain is like carrying a weight around all day. Sometimes we don’t realize how heavy it is until we let it go. Think of it as an investment in your future. If you think it’s weird to have a stranger touch your body all I can say is “give it a try!”. Every single massage therapist I’ve seen has been discreet and professional. Don’t stop at the first massage therapist. It took me five tries before I found my current therapist. Other modalities that worked wonders for me are physiotherapy, chiropractic, hot/cold treatment and castor oil packs.
Mental and Emotional Pain
Accepting pain is not the same as saying“it’s ok and I’m happy I’m in pain.” Accepting pain is saying to yourself that pain is a normal part of humaness and there is nothing to fear. Pain consumed me. My physical pain caused me to think negatively which in turn caused anxiety and depression. Even worse was that the negative emotions caused me more physical pain and I started making negative life choices. Part of our yoga practice is becoming self-observers. I became obsessed with curing my pain. Always looking for a quick fix instead of self-observing. Finally, I began to observe my own mental and physical states. I listened to what I was feeling and not what I was thinking. I listened to what my body was saying and not what other people were saying about my body. You are an expert on yourself and honour that knowing. The research is in, meditation reduces pain. Scientific literature has proven that practicing meditation daily can help reduce pain. The good news is it can also help clear your mind, help regulate emotions and help you make decisions. If your unsure about mediation please read my blog on learning to meditate.
Spiritual pain feels like there’s something missing in your life. You can’t explain it, you can’t describe it, you just keep asking yourself “is this all there is?”. It can be a slow burn, something that’s been deep down your whole life or it can come on strong, especially after big life events like the death of a family member. First and for most, as I mentioned before it’s important to find activities that feed your humaness. Some might call these leisure or recreation activities but it’s much more. Life feels fulfilling when we are doing activities that we want to do. Some examples might be sitting by the lake, reading a book, wood working or playing your favorite sport. Think of what your mind is doing when you are participating in these activities. It’s concentrating on the task at hand and not ruminating on the past or planning for the future. We were put here on this earth to experience and sense the world. Secondly, the quickest was is through devotion. If you are an atheist you may want to think about the bigger picture. How your life participates in a greater whole. Find some way to honour your version of God/Universe/Energy/Divine Being. Those of you who are already practicing Christians or Muslims already have a direct outlet. For the rest of us we may have to go farther a field. For me I honour the divine in several ways. I pray. In the good times and in the bad times. I give offerings and chant mantras. I treat sacred spaces with the up most respect regardless of religion. Most importantly I put my self care first. If I am truly a vessel for the divine then I should take care of my Self.
Ultimately, we can make the choice to not let pain stand in the way of a joyful life. We can treat pain on a physical, mental and spiritual level. Regardless of the outcome we accept our current reality. Practicing Yoga is becoming intimate with your reality and looking at it truthfully.