Giving Boundaries to Pain
We tend not to want to get too close to pain, to really take it in and be with it. Pain feels unacceptable.
Similar to having certain parts of our physical body that feel unacceptable, or parts of our character that feel unacceptable. So we want to push them away, cover them up and not look at them.
What if we changed that?
What if we took all the unacceptable parts of ourselves, the painful spot in my shoulder, the part of my body that hangs over my belt that I want to go away, that tendency toward selfishness that I’m ashamed of. What if I took those parts in close and offered to look at them, to hold them and to spend time with them?
To turn toward the unacceptable parts offers us the chance to see them clearly and offer them compassion.
A shoulder, neck or other body part in pain could benefit from a bit of compassion. It is part of us after all, and more love is better than less.
Bringing our awareness and curiosity into our physical pain is also a profoundly and surprisingly effective way of helping the situation.
How you do that is a little hard to describe if you don’t know how to feel the inside of your body. For now I’ll assume you can do that, but I’ll write more about how to do that later to help those for whom it’s unfamiliar.
With your eyes closed you move your attention into the part of your body that is painful. Just doing this is great, because it’s so natural to move away from pain, it’s like a village that has been evacuated is becoming inhabited again.
When you are in there looking at the painful spot, begin to describe it. The words don’t matter, what matters is looking for enough details that you can describe it.
Some details you can look for are: size, shape (ball or rod for example), texture (metal, cotton candy, rubber), emotion, color, temperature, twitch or buzz…anything else?
Spend some time with it. If you find it’s hard to find it or find the details, try moving the area just a little bit and see what that shows you.
As you finish the exercise and come back out into the rest of your body and into the external world, notice what it’s like. Has anything changed in the painful part of the body or in your relationship to it?
When I do this I often find that the painful part has become smaller and much more clearly defined. There is also a sense of it’s having become less of a big deal.
Please let me know if you give this a try and, if you’re willing, share what you find.