When Pain Becomes the Teacher: Part 1

I have found there is no way to live well with chronic illness and chronic pain without drastically changing my lifestyle, my attitudes and my perceptions of pain, of myself and of life.

I might not have changed in these ways otherwise, but now that I’ve had to in order to cope with pain and the limitations of my condition, I realize they are valuable lessons and approaches to life that are positive and healing on multiple levels.

Having been in pain for years, I am convinced now that living with it has brought me some unexpected gifts of wisdom.

I might not have changed in these ways otherwise, but now that I’ve had to in order to cope with pain, I realize they are valuable lessons and approaches to life that are positive and healing on multiple levels.

Admittedly, most of these lessons were unwelcome at the time. But, looking back, I can see what I’ve learned from the experience of living with pain.

Slowing Way Down

One of the gifts pain brought me was that I had to slow way, way down and move only at the speed that worked for my body, not at the speed that worked for my former lifestyle.

Pain forced me to operate in a completely different rhythm than I was used to. Life became simple, minimalist, quiet and slow.

This was a pace I normally would have found boring and unproductive, but slowing down taught me how to tune into my body and its natural rhythms.

It also taught me to appreciate what was right in front of me, and to enjoy what was actually available to me instead of chasing after something else (mostly because I couldn’t).

I found that life is richer when you slow down and take each thing as it comes. And I discovered that I already had most of what I thought I should be running around to get more of anyway.

Honoring the Present Path

Another gift from pain was learning to live much more in the present. Whether we like what is happening in the present moment or not, pain forces us to be there while we are feeling it. In that way, it is a very difficult teacher.

We are brought right slam bang into the center of now when pain is screaming its loudest. There is no outlet, no place to run and hide where you can’t feel it. It is like spiritual training on speed.

Pain teaches us to remember our bodies, to tune into time (because it moves so slowly), and to be aware right here and now.

What’s beneficial about that is we tune into the life we’re actually living.

We’re not ever going to be living in the future, it’s always only ever going to be right now, so tuning in, getting present and paying attention creates a richness to our life experience that is unprecedented.

At first, with pain as the mentor, it’s not all that agreeable to be in tune with the present, but we can learn to find what pleasant and happy things are available right now even with the pain there too.

In this way, despite our vehement protests to the contrary, we find out that what is happening right now in the pain, with the pain and through the pain, is our healing path.

As simple and as difficult as that.

Read Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

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Thinkstock photo via Ingram Publishing.

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