The chronic pain sufferer and addict have a common challenge: how to pass time. Here we need to learn the art of passing time. Ideally time is your friend, a trusted companion that is always with you. You can make time an enemy when you fight its mere existence. Because you may be uncomfortable with how you feel (and you have judged the moment to be so), you time-trip into the past or project yourself into the future, thereby missing the present moment altogether. The problem is that we have no been taught what an art it is to pass time gracefully.
Time is our most precious commodity
One of the things we learn in recovering from chronic pain and addiction is how to manage time better and to simply be with ourselves. Let’s look at it again. “Passing time” implies a fixed length of time. Yet when we are truly and fully present, the whole concept of time drops out of the equation. We are being. It’s that simple. As an example, someone asked me, “How long will it take me to heal?” This is a powerful question that reveals its answer by its very form. “How long” refers to time and indicates that the person asking the question is really saying, “I don’t want to be here.” So, you can see the shadow that our attachment to time brings with all its implications. We can become so programmed to measure our life by time that we miss living in the present moment and all the healing that is waiting there for us.
Accepting the moment with all that it brings
We learn how to accept the moment with all that it brings, to fully embrace it. For me, learning the art of passing time has been a process. I made it part of my daily practice of meditation to learn to stay present. My challenge has been to stay in the present no matter what is showing up, no matter how uncomfortable, no matter how intense, no matter how much I feel fear arising within me.
It’s a practice
I didn’t say it was easy. I said it was a practice. I must keep practicing. I have noticed from doing this assignment that I have a habit of “checking out” when I have judged that things are starting to get dicey. Energetically, my default behavior is to do what I can to dissociate from my physical body, to avoid feeling what is in the moment, to distract myself from the unpleasant. That is my old habit and the old habit of many of us in recovery.
Allow the experience
Sometimes I feel as if I must have nerves of steel to accomplish my goal of keeping myself conscious of the present moment, yet I am only flesh and blood. What I need is to come to the moment with force and fierceness, to gird myself for what I am experiencing. Yet the frequency of this energy is contracted and guarded, full of judgment and expectation. It is not the energy of allowing the experience of the moment into my being. So, you can see the challenge.
How smoking distracts us from learning the art of passing time
I was a smoker for decades. After I stopped smoking, I realized I needed to learn how to simply be with myself without any distraction. Smoking provided a way for me to pass time and avoid my inner experience. Instead, I had to learn to meet myself. I had to learn to settle quietly into the uncomfortable when I felt it. I had to teach my nervous system that I was safe, that I was okay, that there was no threat lurking somewhere in my periphery.
Resetting the stress response
The brain of a chronic pain sufferer and addict has a strong red-alert system that is overexaggerated. Part of learning to pass time involves bringing in practices to help reset our stress response to balance. Meditation and mantra chanting are two such practices. The simple act of consciously breathing as we feel a sense of uneasiness is a potent tool for helping us pass time.
A new way to live
The key to healing chronic pain is to apply pain management tools daily, not only as a practice, but as a way of living. With time and daily use, I have found that those jagged edges I feel inside me have become smoother. I feel life with less urgency. The chaos and the busyness of my days in chronic pain have slowly but surely transmuted into order and the gentler movement of flow in the moment. Time slips from one moment to the next, unimpeded by my disputes and protests that I should be feeling something else, and so I am more peaceful. I have found contentment.
Discoveries appear when we learn the art of passing time
As I learned more about the art of passing time, I made an extraordinary discovery. Remember I mentioned all those years of time tripping into the past or the future and missing the present moment? Well, once I brought myself into the present and practiced enough to stay in it for a long enough time, I felt like I had walked right through a magical doorway. I discovered that the present moment is a vast place filled with richness I had never even imagined.
So, one of the promises of clearing chronic pain and the unhealthy habits we developed because of it is that we learn the phenomenal art of passing time. We learn how precious time truly is. We learn to flow with it instead of fight against it.
- Excerpted in part from the book The Way Through Chronic Pain: Tools to Reclaim Your Healing Power