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How Surrendering to My Pain Actually Helped It Feel Better

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It is a natural reflex for all living beings to want to get away from pain, and for those who are faced with daily chronic pain, it becomes an ongoing struggle to get free from its grip. As we juggle medication, nutrition, supplements and every possible way to make our life bearable, we become frustrated and often discouraged when the aching is relentless. Well-intended people give us all sorts of advice from practicing yoga to taking a walk or a bath with Epsom salts. We do all that if we can, and much, much more! Pain management is our daily fare and I daresay we become experts at it.

And still, in those dark and lonely moments, the Dragon (illness) raises its ugly head and pushes us to the limit of what we feel able to endure. It was in one of those distressing flares that I discovered, much to my astonishment, a wonderfully simple way to make my pain fade away. I know it sounds too good to be true but I came across this and tried it out of sheer desperation. I had been having horrible headaches for which I have strong medication that, after a week, starts to give me serious stomach issues and this time, it got to the point where whatever I took for the pain just was not working. I’m used to hurting, but this bout knocked me out flat.

I lay in bed for days. Cried a lot. Could barely eat. I prayed. I listened to my guided relaxation and meditation, put ice on my head, rubbed-in peppermint or lavender oil. Nothing worked! As I was lying there, I recalled a practice inspired by Eastern philosophy. I had once read about resistance being the cause of increased suffering and I remembered how I could help myself. Now was the time for me to use this knowledge based on a notion that you have probably heard-of before: What you resist persists. So, this is about taking the path of no resistance.

Here’s a quick example for getting some degree of relief from any affliction or unpleasant sensation, physical or emotional:

Lying or sitting in a comfortable, relaxed position, I close my eyes. I take a few deep breaths and settle quietly by focusing on my breath. After a few minutes, I bring my attention back to the pain. (Now for the tricky part.) I just observe the pain without judging it: it is neither good nor bad; it simply is. I try to identify it: is it pounding, stabbing, compressing, burning?  I also take a moment to sense how it makes me feel: hurt, anguished, sad, angry, hopeless, helpless? However I feel, I don’t judge myself for feeling that way. Now back to the pain: I imagine a vast landscape with the horizon far beyond. I allow the aching to take all the space it wants. I let it expand across to the sky. I breathe in, allowing that great expansion. As I breathe out, I release my resistance to the pain.

In-breath: I allow the pain all the room it needs, out-breath: I let go of resistance. I see it. I see the pain spreading over the landscape. I feel resistance leaving my body and heart, flowing away, dissolving.

The first time, I did this for about 15 minutes and after five minutes I did feel a bit better. I eventually got up and was astonished to find that after a solid week of suffering, it had noticeably decreased!

This works pretty well for me most of the time now and I do it whenever I feel the need. It’s not magic but there’s definitely something to it. I hope you give it a serious try. I mean, just do it without expectation and with all your conscious presence. Your intellect or ego will surely say: “Yeah, sure… another thing that won’t work.” Don’t listen to it. Get into your heart and let it guide you to your peaceful center. Most important of all as you experiment with this method, be kind to yourself; it may take some practice. I was pleasantly surprised to experience the peace and relief of surrendering to the unlimited possibilities of the universe.

Do you have simple ways to manage your pain? Please don’t hesitate to share. Not everything works for everyone but there may be someone out there who will be helped by your ideas!

See you on the path of healing and beyond.

Getty photo by agsandrew

Originally published: June 9, 2018
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