In my years working in palliative (comfort) care, I came to understand some things deeply about pain, as a firsthand witness and caregiver to the whole spectrum of discomfort for others.
First – not to be all doom and gloom here – but pain is inevitable. We will each know illness, pain, and dying. That’s just part of this glorious gift of life. In general, we do a lot better with this when we build a trusting, loving relationship with our body while we have this precious time in its skin – even when our body transforms in ways not on our ego’s agenda. If you put up a constant fight with those things, you will suffer. That’s how it goes. Better, perhaps, to learn its unique language and dance to its song.
Secondly, pain is different than suffering. I’ve seen deep agonizing examples of both. Sometimes they go hand in hand, but sometimes they don’t. And what I learned from my hospice patients over time is that there are different forms of palliation – different forms of comfort care – and that while some conventional symptom relievers are inarguably helpful, there is a place of deeper truth with this.
I’m not talking about what a drug book or doctor can tell you (unless you’ve been blessed with an awesome doc). I’m talking about the feedback loop between suffering of the spirit and suffering on a physical level. Palliate the heck out of those physical symptoms, but if matters of the spirit and heart have not been faced and offered their due PRESENCE and attention, those physical symptoms will keep showing up – as either worse than before, or in different areas of the body.
The real kicker here is that once we offer Presence to our pain, and not just bandaid or pill, to the truth of what it means to be spirit in physical realm… Once we begin to slow down and embrace the gamut of sensations in our skin, in our emotional center, in our monkey-minds, in the unanswerable questions of the Mystery of Life… the physical suffering that so often accompanies pain becomes a different experience… more bearable, lessened, dissipated… not the center of our focus, nor the cause of so much tension and resistance.
Presence Presence Presence…
In Presence there is a softer gratitude to know.
And in the truth of our gratitude we are better able to navigate the moments from a wholistic healing perspective.
Can we dare to be WITH the discomfort of not knowing, letting go, BEing and not doing, the places that ache, or with whatever is unpleasant in this moment, now?
Can we give the discomfort space to breathe and be seen, to soften within the safe container of our attention & acceptance like a misbehaving child might, and to teach us more about the full spectrum of this human experience?
Can we offer it enough love that we slow down and stop the fight, giving the discomfort our whole-hearted stillness and an honorable place of meaning as we might so many other facets of our life?
Can we just dare to be… to be with what pains us… to trust that there is a deeper need behind that pain, a richer comfort to be known in the mystery of it all, and just Listen until we know what to do – or not do.
Because if we can…
when we can,
there is great, great relief to be known.