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What Chronic Pain Demands

Any kind of long-lived pain eventually sinks into and penetrates to the deepest levels of the self. It feels like the pain becomes intertwined with and seemingly inseparable from us at our core.

I have become this pain. This pain has become me.

It’s as if pain sends tendrils inward from surface experience, down, down, down into the center of the self to grow roots there.

Maybe it’s also that there is already a well of pain somewhere in all of us. It’s part of being human. Most of us only touch into it briefly when we meet life’s challenges, difficulties, and losses, and then we (mostly) return to life as usual.

Some of us go wading in the pool from time to time, and some of us end up immersed in it, unable to find our way out again because it seems that we are in a cistern with slippery sides and no footholds.

Once any pain has stayed and stayed and stayed, the experience is one of submersion of the self – a forced immersion into the inner worlds because we have lost most of our outer world, and ultimately, we are left with only ourselves.

Just us with us.

I think that’s part of what chronic pain is, somehow – or what it demands – a sinking into the deeper levels of the self to take a difficult and often dark journey to the core of who we are.

If we allow ourselves to follow the tendrils of pain inward and down, all the way to their roots and then not stop there, just keep going deeper and deeper – we may pass through that inner pool, or field, of pain. But if we keep going, we find the essential self just beyond, fine and bright and clear as it has always been.

It seems that, at least for some of us, the path to the core of the self requires us to go through the pain in order to reach the brightness at the center.

And I think we can pull something from there, some light and some knowing, and travel back out with it.

We can emerge back into our lives with something impossibly beautiful – some knowing, some understanding, some pure experience of our most true self – that is wise and dear and valuable.

Pain may still be there in our outer experience, but there is also the experience of this astonishingly clear and unexpectedly beautiful center.

This wisdom, this knowing, this offering, is informed by pain, yes, but is not made entirely of pain.

We become the wisdom, deepened and strengthened by our journey through pain. We find a place in ourselves that is clear and authentic, a core of light at the center of pain.

Getty Image by prudkov