The Gift of Pain: Three Ways to Transform Aching Into Awakening


That is how I woke up today, Christmas morning, with the brilliance of a blue sky over the clear ocean that days of rain made all the more spectacular. Plans for merriment and celebration immediately on my mind, along with the question, will I be well enough? I was in excruciating pain, unlike anything I’d ever experienced before, and getting out of bed felt impossible, let alone dancing and playing all day as I’d intended.

I’d gone to bed feeling amazing, a joyful night out with friends, some deeply soulful conversations and the kind of middle of the night lovemaking where the mind is totally turned off and the body totally turned on and the trance that falls upon you is oh so very intoxicating. So it was not just physical pain but also mental surprise that I awoke to when I stirred from sleep and felt an acute, intense aching on the inside of my right shoulder blade, right next to my heart. What was this?

That question led to an inquiry that has threaded throughout my entire day. It lulled me back into sleep, awoke me again into the healing hands of my beloved, gently moved me across the dance floor and into the ocean where natural rhythms and authentic movement arose from within, and I allowed my instinctual body wisdom to guide me rather than stay trapped inside what my mind thought should or should not be done.

And that this pain was located so undeniably close to my emotional center led me to inquire even further into its purpose. Why had this shown up for me, and what were the gifts that it had come to bring? How could I transmute pain into an opportunity for healing?

Whenever it arises, pain gives us this choice. We can sit with it in misery, feeling victim to our circumstances, or we can sit with it as mystery, unfolding the preciousness it has come to impart. Cultivating the choice that is in service to the highest good is just like strengthening any muscle. Repetition and discipline. Feeling the ache in its fullness, knowing it will give way into sweetness. Losing your way and trying again, and likely again and again and again.

As I watched my pain morph and fade and I opened my heart and mind to the gifts it revealed to me throughout the day, something abundantly clear was there is a lesson for me to share. This experience is not just my own. I offer it to you, my gift of the season . . .

In the face of pain, in the presence of this choice we have been given, there are several easy ways to enter in, deeply and consciously:

·      Be with your pain. Recognize that for sake of the simple fact that you can observe your pain, you are separate from it. It does not define you. It is not you. Your pain is finite while you, in your true essence, are infinite. Your pain is a messenger, and once it has delivered its message, it will fade away. You, in your boundlessness, will continue on, having harvested the fruits the pain seeded in you.

·      Breathe into your pain. Let your breath slowly expand, moving beyond your nasal passages and mouth, your respiratory channel and lungs, and feel it reach the point of your pain. Even if the pain is registering as emotional, it resides somewhere in your body. Touch your pain with your breath, gently and steadily. Feel it wash over the intensity or the tenderness, bathing the sensation with your intention and your loving presence.

·      Bow to your pain. Approach it with humility and reverence. Treat it as an honored guest. Would you push away a holy sage or wise woman who has come to pay you a personal visit? Chances are not. Recognize your pain as holy and wise, steering you straight when you’ve lost your way and inviting you into repose when you’ve gone beyond your limits. Ultimately it is a signal that something is imbalanced, and giving you the opportunity to return things to rights. Bow to that. Revere that.

My Christmas day unfolded with even more love and beauty than I could have anticipated because I embraced my pain. I let it move me inward when I needed to, and helped my outward movements be extra conscious and sensitive. My pain helped me be with the pain I met in others and offer tender compassion rather than resistance. My pain was my greatest gift on this day of giving and receiving, and I feel so very grateful to share that gift with you.

Blessed and happy holidays, dear souls!