Respecting Pain: Life's Invaluable Teacher
Consciously experiencing the infinite nature of Love (our True Nature) while living a physical expression of It is the ultimate magic of life.
But, how can we recognize that our essence is Love when we don’t feel it or see evidence of it?
This is the great pain of life, feeling separate from Love rather than recognizing oneself to be a beautiful, human expression of It. When situations and conditions are painful, and we’re totally stressed, it’s common to ask, “Where is Love?” This poem and practical suggestions below speak to this important inquiry. Pain can be a masterful teacher when we know how to interact with it openly and creatively.
The insights and five-step exercise offered here apply to both physical pain and emotional suffering, transforming them from being a roadblock to being an inroad to well-being. Asking relevant, meaningful questions is the key to learning what pain has arrived to teach.
Five Steps to Converse With and Learn from Pain
1. Acknowledge pain with gentleness.
Just be with it. It’s not necessary or helpful to feed pain with judgmental inner dialogue, rationalizations, or complaint. Yes, it sucks. Just feel all the ways it sucks physically and emotionally without words, definitions, or attempts at mental solutions.
To help understand the importance of acknowledgment, here’s an analogy—not a perfect one, but a decent one. Think of a situation where you’re venting to a friend or spouse, and they jump in to try and fix your problem. Most of the time that doesn’t feel good, and we say (or think), “Please, I just want you to listen. I’m not asking you to fix this.”
Apply this to interacting with your feelings of physical pain or emotional suffering. It doesn’t want your mental “fixer” mucking around in it. It just wants you to be present and listen, at least to begin with. Listening may also involve asking simple, compassionate questions just as it feels good to hear your friend say, “I am here for you. How may I help?” Acknowledge what is present, be gentle with your pain, and then get curious. That leads to step 2.
2. Inquire with compassion.
Talk to your pain with innocent curiosity. Being genuinely open without a critical edge improves the quality of your questions. Rather than asking judgmental things like...
What have I done wrong?
Why am I so unlucky?
Why can’t things ever go my way?
Why do I have to suffer?
How is this pain serving me?
What is this pain showing me that is valuable for me to know?
Pain, I am here for you, what do you want or need?
The key is choosing questions that lead to constructive answers rather than statements that disrespect you. The energy of compassionate inquiry positively feeds the healing process. Start simply by asking one question and giving space for a response to come. If one question doesn’t seem to be working, try another question.
3. Listen with heartfulness.
There’s a big difference between listening with your head and listening with your heart. Head-listening feels like reaching for solutions, trying to remember answers you’ve heard somewhere. You know you’re head- listening if you feel like you’re working hard in a search and find expedition. While this may be sincere, as in thoughtful listening, adding more thoughts to your overflowing, thoughts-per-day tally doesn’t resolve the imbalance pulsing at the roots of pain and suffering.
Heartful listening is the opposite of reaching. It’s allowing. It’s the feeling of being an open vessel for insight to arise within. You’re not working hard. In fact, you’re not doing anything but being aware, kind of like waiting for your friend to arrive at the train station. You’re present and you’re looking. At some point, there is recognition, “Aha, there you are...terrific.” When the insight arrives, you know it because it feels right and you didn't have to make it happen. It appeared on your behalf. When it feels that way, you’ll feel some measure of relief—feeling lighter, for instance—as stagnant energy starts moving
4. Trust with openness.
This is often very challenging and understandably so. Like any new skill, getting comfortable with it takes time and consistent practice. If your skeptic muscle is strong, this may take a minute. I speak from experience of great struggle in this area—just keep on with your devotion to truly know what trust feels like. When an insight arises and the mind doubts, notice it and simply choose not to feed the doubt with skeptic commentary. Instead be open and move toward possibility.
“If this insight could be true, then that could mean... (finish the sentence.)
Basically, you’re opening to a “what if” tone. What if the insight you received is the best answer for your well-being right now? Be prepared that answers to your questions may challenge your typical mindset and stretch your current beliefs.
The more you give insights a chance, the more you see how spot on they are.
5. Make a choice that is loving.
So, now that you’ve 1) acknowledged 2) inquired 3) listened 4) and trusted (or are in the process of trusting) insights that have been revealed. Now what?
You simply ask, “What is the most wise and loving thing I can do right now? From my experience, making even small, self-honoring choices helps take pain down a notch or two. Maybe you take a 10-minute walk or listen to soothing music for a few minutes. Neither is likely to undo all your pain, but such things move you in the direction of self-care, which opens you to deeper movements of self-healing.
Example of Applying the Five Steps
Once I experienced a sudden onset of intense pain in both hands. Within a few days, I went from 0 to an 8 on the pain scale (10 being almost unbearable). I was perplexed as I had not fallen, eaten anything differently, or walked through a fog of toxins. By in large, I have a chemical-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free lifestyle, which eliminates many potential instigators for inflammation leading to pain. To the logical mind, this was illogical. Fortunately, logic isn’t my only friend. Intuition piped in saying...
“There is a part of you that needs your loving attention.”
As teachers of self-healing, we know the steps, and sometimes we’re so busy helping others we forget to take our turn. Pain was saying, “Okay, you’re up now.”
So, I took time for quietude to feel the pain all the way, every tinge, throb, pulse and more without making commentary or trying to label it as the illness associated with my symptoms. When the acknowledgement felt complete, I moved to compassionate inquiry.
“What have I been saying to myself that is painful?” That was the question that cracked the lock. Almost immediately, a myriad of statements relating to self-doubt came to my attention.
There it was—my stuff. Good grief. Hadn’t this been emptied out already in the countless rounds of healing I’d done for over a decade? More self-judgment...more throbbing in the hands. With every unkind statement that revealed itself as part of my daily commentary, the pain increased, more, and more, and more until it seemed I would pass out.
The pain moved me to step 5—action, making a loving choice. By this time, I know without question that running from pain, numbing-out, taking something for the symptoms, or distracting the mind does not resolve things for good. Self-healing calls for some version of these fundamental five steps, and we have the capacity to apply them or adjust them slightly to make them our own.
I had 1) gently acknowledged what was present 2) inquired with compassion 3) listened heartfully 4) trusted what was revealed—self-doubt was creating my physical pain. Next, step 5 action, make a loving choice.
My loving choice involved three things:
a) investigating how hurtful statements were false perceptions, not actually true.
b) moving energy in the specific areas of the chakras and meridians that were “clogged”
c) owning the perspective that every experience of my life was not a mistake but an essential part of my resilient purpose. Everything is serving the evolution of our lives and contributions to the world.
The pain decreased quickly within a day and flared up a few times in the next few weeks. Each time, I met an episode with the same steps. The pain was eventually resolved completely and has not returned.
People have shared that they resist this kind of reflection out of fear of what they'll find. I get that, and here’s what I know from experience. The temporary discomfort of meeting pain is far less distressing than the long haul of stuffing, hiding, and dragging it around, pretending that it’s not there when, in fact, it is.
I could have let the symptoms increase, as they do for most people, hand the situation over to a doctor who would define the condition and prescribe something for the symptoms. Such a choice is certainly a valid one, and it's for each of us to decide what path will best support our long-term well-being. If you prefer to give your innate self-healing mechanisms a shot, then this five-step framework can support your preference as a simple and powerful starting point.
When you can hold your stressful judgments, feelings, and beliefs with wise compassion, curiosity, and openness, self-healing is activated. Metaphorically, this five-step exercise is a cool bath for painful emotions that inflame your body. This immersion (a quality of your presence) gives them a chance to relax and release. Once you have a direct experience of this, it’s easier to open and welcome the teacher that has appeared in your life, wise and willing, disguised as pain.
May we attune to the Infinite One we are in perfect unity, now and always.
Much Love ~ Korrine