I used to brace myself against the world, pushing up against it with all that I had. I never realized what a losing proposition the whole thing was – until I had fallen so far that I almost disappeared altogether. There was no relaxing. I certainly cried for peace from deep within me, but it was as elusive as capturing a bit of mist blown in on the breeze. I wanted control over my pain – any way at all, whether as a victim or as the victor. Either way, I was dueling with an enemy, a strident warrior on the battlefield, not knowing where or when a way might be found to broker the peace. One day I found myself fighting with the fury of a tempest in all of the pain I felt, and it seemed like I was spinning in a fierce whirlwind, about to be gobbled up by all of the busyness and chaos in the world – my world. I actually saw myself this way. I felt utterly out of control and felt I had nowhere to turn for safety. “Wow! Look at that! I am loosed and untethered in the world, trying to find purchase somewhere, anywhere, and pushing with all of my might against what is showing up for me in the moment. All I am getting in return is more of the same, or worse. Do you really think this is serving you? Helping you grow and evolve? Are you getting anywhere at all in your efforts?”
As I looked around and took in the lay of the land, the proverbial battlefield of my life at that time, I decided to take a contrary action. “What do you have to lose by trying something completely different? Because what you’re doing now sure isn’t working out so well.” I had been going against the grain and fighting the world for so long, I almost forgot even how to reverse my direction to stop the fight altogether. I turned and stepped off of my Zone of Conflict and deferred to the Gentle Angels that had been holding space for me for all this long time. I heard them whisper, “You are welcome to as much pain as you desire. But if and when you are ready to drop it, to find a way out of the suffering, We are here to lead you into the Land of Contentment.” I could not imagine at the time what ‘contentment’ might actually feel like, but it sure sounded inviting – like something I had been searching for all along.
I learned to embrace the world instead of brace against it. Today I start where I am, let the past rest where it was and the future unfold as it will. I start here, with a gentle hug to myself and breathe into this restless edgy feeling arising; let go of projections and regrets, feeling the flurry of energy instead. Today I start exactly where I am and move through the day from this place. Today I start where I am, let the past rest where it was and the future unfold as it will. I start here, with a gentle hug to myself and breathe into this restless edgy feeling arising; let go of projections and regrets, feeling the flurry of energy instead. Today I start exactly where I am and move through the day from this place. I learned to slow down enough to take a measured breath – or three, or ten, or a thousand breaths – and open to that rich and spacious spot that sits silently and with such innocence in the present moment. I learned to start where I am in the moment, letting the past rest where it was and the future unfold as it will. I learned to start here in the present, with a gentle hug to myself, and breathe into whatever edginess might be arising; I learned to let go of projections and regrets, and allowed myself to feel the edginess’s flurry of sensation and energy instead. It is in this feeling state that I learned to start, in any moment, exactly where I am and move forward in my life from this place. As I learned to slow down enough to breathe fully and deeply, bring in self-compassion and feel sensation just as it was, I found that what I had labeled as ‘pain’ dissolved. Where I had been tight and contracted with tension amid so much chronic pain before, now I felt expanded, liberated, and free of pain. I learned that bracing myself against the world was part of what had been causing so much of my chronic pain in the first place.
I learned to open to all of the motion in life, rather than try to contain any of it. I learned such a lesson in holding a great and mighty space of compassion for myself, and in holding that space, I felt that I could also hold a vast space of compassion for the world, where before I felt as if I might be consumed by the tragic events in the world. I learned that as I let go of thinking that “things should be a certain way”, I feel my very being open and expand beyond what my mind has ever been able to remotely fathom. For example, when I used to get stuck in traffic and a deadline was looming for me, I used to feel heat rising from the tension and anxiety that would arise from all of the worry over that fact that I might be late. I have learned that the Universe indeed has Its own timing, and as I face a deadline now and find myself stuck in traffic, I turn into myself with a calming deep, slow, conscious breath, and repeat it again and again, telling my nervous system that all is indeed well with the world, despite the protestations of my mind.
In the past, I felt stuck in my mind, a hostage to all of its dire catastrophizing thought patterns, not knowing how to disentangle myself from them. I learned to drop down out of the mind and into whatever sensation I am feeling in my body, avoiding the mind to a great extent. My heart has taken center stage, where before my mind tried to reign. I live from here and deep in the belly of my heart is where I found that Land of Contentment.
Here’s the thing I found in all of this. All that I went through to get here and the being here as well – it’s all perfect – the rough and the rocky, the smooth and silky, the point of the pain found in fear, anger, jealousy, angst, and a host of other such things is not to run from them, but to embrace and integrate them, fully, as a part of the whole. At the center of the Land of Contentment lives that quiet, sweet, cool, and mellow pool of Acceptance.
Living consistently from this place of acceptance is a practice for me, allowing what the moment brings, whatever that might be. The challenge arises as I begin to judge what is showing up for me as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘too much’ or ‘not enough’, or seek to change my present moment experience in some way. If I am watching rain fall, I can see how it is falling, how big the raindrops are, what they sound like, and how the rain touched everything in its path. I can see a rainbow forming in the sunlight. I can see the rain as rain, but I usually pass some sort of judgement on my rain-watching experience. My vision is muddied by such judgment. I might see the rain as coming at an inconvenient time, as ‘too much’, or ‘too enough’, or even ‘too wet’. By injecting a value judgment into the mix as I watch the rain, I slip out of being able to experience the pure ‘rain experience’ – and I can become irritated or even anxious. By living from the more neutral space of watching the rain, and only watching the rain, removing my ‘spin’ on what is happening in front of my eyes, I am practicing acceptance, and a whole different experience of rain-watching can show up as a result. Herein lies the practice and, I believe, the crux of the human experience – indeed a key to living a life beyond chronic pain and free from suffering.
Life is messy and unpredictable. Life does not come with a model for us to follow, rather it is an unfolding that is charted in the moment as it occurs. Embracing life turns out to be a much more contented way to live than to brace against it. At the center of the Land of Contentment lies the sweet, cool, mellow, calming waters of the Pool of Acceptance.
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