I had major dental surgery last week. And by major I mean 3 hours worth of work, gums split ear to ear and heavy sedation. And by sedation I mean out like a light, don’t remember a thing including how I got home. (Don’t judge, someone else drove me. Lol.)
I bring this up because the surgery caused me to reflect on pain, or more precisely, enduring pain. I was thinking that I’ve learned a lot over the years about what it takes to endure pain. It’s one of the life lessons that this blog is supposed to be about.
I’ve learned that although it seems counterintuitive, sometimes it’s better to accept pain than to fight it.
I was having a baby the first time someone tried to help me understand that. My nurse was wonderful when I had a C-section to deliver my youngest daughter. She came in the first night and told me not to fight the pain because I’d never win. She told me not to instinctively go into a defensive mode so I could stay aware of my body. She explained the need for pain as messages from the body pointing to the places that need attention. She said that pain is an ally not an adversary. She was very smart.
The next time I heard the lesson was from a therapist. She told me that what we perceive as the negative of pain is mostly fear. She told me to stay aware of my body tensing more at the memory of past hurt than the real pain itself. She said the worst part of pain, the memory of it, has already happened so there’s no reason to be afraid of it. She taught me to relax, breathe and that if I tried to focus on the center of the pain, I’d find it was much smaller than I’d feared. She was very wise.
My yoga teacher is young but she’s good at guiding a bunch of us Boomers gently through our poses. She tells us to breathe through our pain. (In our hips, knees and backs.) Breathe in to the center of it, breathe out and release it. It really does help when I’m trying to creakily hold a pose. She is very sweet.
So, when I went to a Buddhist dharma talk last year and the presenter discussed “being the pain” it resonated with me. He was saying the same thing as the other women were saying. And the lesson can be applied to emotional and spiritual pain as well as the physical. Staying with it and giving our “self” over to it is the only way we really know what pain is and what it means. And if we know that we can bear it, use it and won’t waste precious energy trying to beat it.