Steps to Healing
For over 40 years I have been practicing as a hands on wellness doctor. Though I have had plenty of formal training, from a very early age, I always intuitively practiced mind/body care. I remember this experience from one of my first massage clients - a man in his 40s who complained about pain and loss of movement in his shoulder that has been bothering him for as long as he could remember. During the treatment, as I slowly and gently allowed his tight tissues to relax, he spontaneously recalled the onset of his shoulder pain.
When he was 12 years old, his father died. This was a very painful and lonely time in his life. As he recalled that experience, I continued to slowly and gently free up those tissues that had been holding these old memories locked in his body for so many years. As a result, after the treatment, his range of motion improved greatly and for the first time in years he was pain free.
Since that experience, I have treated hundreds patients who have stories of a similar nature. When we have upsetting experiences that are unresolved, we unconsciously carry these stories in the very tissues of our body causing us pain, loss of function and which, potentially over time can lead to disease. We cannot separate our mind and our body.
We have feelings that get locked into that injury when we fall down and hurt ourselves. We have emotions from unresolved upsets that eat us up and develop into body pain. This is physiologically how the body/mind works.
Typically health care separates the mind and the body when treatment is given. Physical aches and pain tend to be dealt with solely as physical in origin. Intake questionnaires ask us to fill out forms and give multiple choice answers, confining us to put our life stories into little boxes in very mechanical ways as if we all have a 'yes or no' answer to our complex situations.
Yet, we are individuals within a context. We each have our own unique experiences and our own ways of reacting to these experiences. If we have not been given the ability to tell our stories, and more importantly our relationship to these stories, we are not only overriding the depth of the problem but also limiting the potential for healing.
It is in this context that I have been teaching. The common denominator has been how to accept the present moment.
In general, we are taught not to experience the present moment. Instead, we are conditioned to avoid the present moment. Pain is our enemy. Avoid it at all costs. We might override what’s really happening and push it away to the best of our ability. Or we might instead fight the pain, often with warlike language about conquering pain. But rarely are we taught to embrace the present moment or befriend our pain. Rather, we are taught to have a conflictual adversarial relationship with what’s really happening and wishing it was different. It is understandable that this would happen. Pain is not fun to deal with. No one wants to be in in pain.
So why would anyone
want to befriend our pain?
Simple. Because reality
Reality doesn’t care about how we feel. Reality doesn’t care that we don’t like the pain. Reality doesn’t care that we wish it would be over. That has nothing to do with reality but rather with our desire to be out of pain. The simple reality is that if we’re in pain, we are in pain. And running from it or fighting it ironically does not make it better but actually makes it worse. This is because fighting reality is not only fruitless, but also it takes an awful lot of energy to fight.
On a neurological level, when we resist reality, either by fighting or suppressing, we activate our sympathetic nervous system and secrete alarm hormones. We activate a stress response so that now we have to deal not only with our pain but now we have to deal with the pain with an over active nervous system. If however we could sit with the pain and learn to hear it’s messages and understand the nuances, and be with it instead of against it, perhaps we can start to become more empowered with our pain instead of having our pain control us.
As an example, once when I was at a meditation retreat, quiet and introspective, I was faced with a really uncomfortable feeling. I sat with it and allowed it to be and recognized as to be terror. I really disliked the feeling yet I stayed with it. I didn’t try to change it in anyway but just explored with curiosity how terror felt in my body. As time passed, I became more comfortable with this feeling of discomfort. In fact, this feeling of terror visited me several times during this retreat and by the time I left, I was no longer afraid of this feeling that previously took over and instead felt empowered by my comfort with this discomfort.
How about you? Are there issues bothering you that need to be befriended?