A very young, very wise doctor of Eastern Medicine was explaining the acupuncture treatment he was about to give me, and asked about any pain points. Nothing much to speak of except my lower back hurts like hell for a day or two after I clean the house. After bending over for hours vacuuming and scrubbing, I can barely stand up straight and I walk like there's a broom up my keister.
He had two things to say: Tell your husband it's his turn to clean because it makes your back hurt. (His eyes twinkled and he laughed but still, what woman would not love this guy?) And then on a more serious note, he reminded me that pain is one of the languages our body uses to speak to us.
"These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them. —Rumi
In this human experience, pain can arrive in so many different forms on so many different levels. We suffer just having our thoughts fixated on the past (sorrow/regret/loss) or the future (fear/anxiety/the unknown). We lose ourselves in an existential crisis or just lose ourselves, period. We suffer abuse and arrows of hatred from ourselves and others, isolation and abandonment, bone-aching loneliness, rejection and humiliation, incalculable loss and unrelenting sorrow, debilitating chronic pain and trauma—not to mention people around us who are mean and hurtful and toxic and crazy-making. And those are just the broad brushstrokes.
Some of us are more lucky than others but like any animal, our human nature recoils from pain. The overriding impulse is to escape, resist, run away, and get as far away from the fire as possible. That's why we have invented an entire world of unhealthy, destructive ways to do just that—particularly addictions to substances and addictive behaviors. But these quick and easy fixes to numb and ease our pain only end up adding to our suffering. What we resist does indeed persist. Which, let's face it, feels like the ultimate third finger from the Universe.
As counterintuitive as it sounds and feels, sitting with and fully feeling our pain is always the fastest way through it for one simple reason:
The cure for pain is in the pain. —Rumi
Our pain messengers arrive with the full monty: Unwanted discomfort or abject misery but also an accurate diagnosis and the way out.
I love these poignant words from Rick Belden: When I let my grief and my sadness speak, when I allow those energies to stir in my belly and my chest, to move up through my heart and my throat, to enter the world as tears and moans and sobbing and wailing, I am cleansed. I am lifted. I can see again. I feel real again. Human. Grief work is hard for many of us as men. You have to be tough and soft at the same time, and you have to be present with what you’re feeling without losing yourself in the intensity of it. It’s not easy. Healing is not for wimps. The real tough guys are the ones who can do the work, and if you don’t do your work when you’re called to do it, something bigger will come along and crack you wide open.
I know you're tired but come, this is the way. —Rumi
Whenever I spend time with Gary Springfield at one of his meditation workshops, he never fails to point out that all the pain in the world and all the pain we experience as individuals has the same root cause: Something feels unloved. Something is crying for love. The very barriers we erect to avoid our pain keep us from fully knowing and experiencing love. Gary would say the underlying message of all pain goes something like this: "Please pay attention to me and love me. I can tell you what I need if you can just be here and listen."
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.