7 life lessons from back pain

I was all set to write another post on blogging a couple of weeks ago, when I threw my back out. Not for the first time…but this was unlike any other episode. Excruciating spasms. Unable to stand up on my own. Putting on socks? Forget it.

I’ve been thinking about a good friend who was in near-constant back pain for months. Most health care practitioners were unable to help, and she eventually had surgery. I remember meeting with her while she was struggling with pain. I see now that I was unable to be truly present with her. I wanted there to be a solution: I wanted her to discover the emotional root of her issue, the ‘why’ of it.

Artist: Maxine Noel

And now, as I write these words, I realize I don’t know the ‘why’ of my own pain, and how presumptuous it was to think I could know it for anyone else. But I have come to some insights about what this experience is teaching me personally.

Listening to my body’s warning signals: as mentioned, it’s not the first time I’ve thrown my back out. I’d had warning signs for years, and knew what I needed to do to prevent future pain from happening. But I always put it off. This time, my body made sure I was paying attention.

I am vulnerable: I never knew just how much I need my lower back. Now I need help with so much. I’ve had to reach out to friends and loved ones for assistance with the most simple of tasks. I’m not used to this, and it is humbling.

Which brings me to Gratitude: I am blessed that I have people in my life to help me, and who ask nothing in return. This is no small thing, and it’s probably the biggest gift of all.

Compassion: I think of all those who don’t have caring support. I see where I’ve missed opportunities to be compassionate and helpful. When we’re feeling good and healthy, it can be hard to understand what it’s like to be in pain, especially chronic pain. I wanted to fix my friend’s problem by helping her discover the emotional root, but that wasn’t what she needed. She needed to feel validated and understood for what she was feeling in that moment.

Meds can be a good thing: Is there an emotional root to my pain? Probably. Low back pain is suggested to indicate a lack of support. And I have felt that, for many years. But it’s interesting that the pain is also revealing to me the support I do have. Beyond the mind/body connection and my holistic practices, I’m grateful for the medication that’s reducing my pain. This is noteworthy, as I’ve always been somewhat anti-medication – you wouldn’t even find an Advil in my home – and had a bit of an ego about that.

I am not in control. I can play my part in my healing, but my body is on its own timeline and will recover at its own pace. This has required patience and surrender that I’m not accustomed to. Forcing anything is only going to set me back.

Self-care is a priority: I’ve never missed so much work, or relied on others to take care of me. I notice how guilty I feel about it. Thoughts that I’m a burden on others, that I’m taking ‘too long’ to get better, surface repeatedly. No one has given me this message. It’s been eye-opening to realize just how hard it is to take care of myself first.

This entire experience has been very humbling, and I’m learning to trust that my body knows what it’s doing, even when my mind objects. I’m thankful that I’ve had no choice but to slow down and listen.

solstice, samskara, surrender

As we enter the winter solstice, I’m in awe of nature’s rhythms. Last week, my city was struck with back-to-back severe windstorms and heavy rains. It was evident that Gaia was doing some serious clearing and cleansing.

The dramatic weather perfectly mirrored my internal state as my frustrations, irritations, and limitations thrashed about. I felt uncomfortable and angry, like a caged bird. A prisoner in my own home, and in my own mind.

It took all my might to tune into a quiet, still voice from within. Is this how you want it to be? Do you realize you can let some of this go, once and for all?

A beautiful solstice labyrinth created by my friend G.

A beautiful solstice labyrinth created by my friend G.

The comments from my last post got me thinking about attachment to our emotions, particularly our pain. To me there’s no question that to become whole, essential beings, we must feel all our feelings – the light and the shadow, the joy and the sorrow.

But some of us get so comfortable processing the darkness that it becomes our identity. We don’t know when or how to give ourselves permission to stop. We drown in our samskaras, our karmic patterns and habitual tendencies. We can’t tell if we’re healing or wallowing.

Even though we want to feel lighter, brighter, and more carefree, we’re more at home in melancholia. Heaviness feels real, because we’ve practiced it for so long. The ‘light’ feels unknown, an empty space. For some of us, this emptiness evokes annihilation.

We don’t want to shun the darkness, but we would like some relief.

Obviously it’s a personal journey and one that demands radical self-honesty. Only we can know for ourselves when we’re avoiding painful emotions, when they’ve become a crutch or habit, and when we can let them go. This knowing happens in the heart and not the mind. It has many subtle layers.

For me it’s required a higher level of trust in something beyond ‘me’. It’s required humility in acknowledging that I can’t navigate the journey alone. It’s required the acceptance that I am not in control, I don’t know why things happen the way they do, and that I’m totally Spirit-dependent. It means having to let go of who I thought I was, and be willing to start anew. My ego hates all of that.

View from my apartment window

View from my apartment window

The thing about the howling wind and pouring rain…there was no question that it would pass. It had to. The real question was, would I allow the light that was sure to follow? Am I going to take myself out of my present hermitage and isolation, and embrace the love that’s all around? The love I once judged as ‘not good enough’, because I myself felt ‘not good enough’? Am I going to trust that grace exists?

I recently completed a 40-day meditation as part of my Kundalini Yoga homework. My samskaras – chronic anger, frustration, and reactivity – rose to the surface in a big way. As did the realization that it is totally in my power to release them, if that’s what I want. It may take time, discipline, and commitment…but it can happen.

I feel blessed to have lived on this island for the past few months. There aren’t words to describe what has opened for me. It was here that, fifteen years ago, I first discovered I was an angry woman. I’ve come full circle, and I’m ready to move forward.

It’s time to unburden ourselves from the weight we no longer need to carry. We’re allowed to surrender it to the light…the light of the solstice, the light of the Divine, and the light of the collective consciousness. We can trust that what’s ready for release will be transformed for the highest good. Once and For All.

the pain of bliss

Soon after I posted on the joys of mantra meditation, a dear friend emailed me to ask what I’ve been up to “besides being blissed out”. Her question made me smile, and pause to reflect.

Kundalini yoga and meditation have certainly given me a newfound sense of spiritual connection, hope, and yes, bliss…but I’ve mostly been spending time in solitude and contemplation. I’m continuing my shadow work, diving deep into feelings of darkness and limitation to touch the underlying fear, grief, and sense of separation.

seawall-tagore-watermark

Many people are scared of experiencing, or talking about, deep emotions. Some fear that focusing on negative feelings will manifest more of them. Especially in the spiritual community, we say affirmations and practice the Law of Attraction to avoid what we consider negative. But it’s really our unconscious programming driving the show. And we can’t delete that with positive thought alone.

For me, bliss can only come with feeling and releasing painful emotions. This pain has accumulated over lifetimes, in my childhood, in my ancestry, and in the collective. Bliss is the authenticity of feeling all my feelings, without self-judgment. Bliss isn’t about being ‘happy’ all the time. That is a precarious place to be, because we fear losing that happiness. Bliss is freedom from the fear of feeling.

A few months ago I wrote about my move to a new location. I can see now that much has shifted for me in my short time here. It has been a challenging time on many levels. But I’ve needed to be in a place where I could consolidate my energy and prepare myself for something very new.

There have been many tears…but there is a subtle, lasting, profound joy in their release. It’s hard to put into words, but I know that many others are going through this cleansing process, and for a purpose.

I am compelled to do this work and I sense it’s about something much bigger than me. I feel deep gratitude to be on this path. And from what I’ve seen in some awakened women around me, the journey through these darker places is well worth it.

In a universe of oneness, we are all carrying each other’s pain. In releasing our own pain, we release it for humanity. We become lighter and more free to create a new reality through feeling our way into it. That, to me, is bliss.

time to jump ship

Years ago I worked in an aromatherapy store and, one night at closing, my manager’s friend, J, stopped by to wait for her.  I was counting the money in the till when J began channelling messages to me.  She told me she and I had a ‘contract’ to meet at this point in time, for her to deliver guidance that I might need to hear.  I remember glancing at my manager in surprise and total bewilderment.  She just wore a knowing little smile on her face.

So began a series of sessions where J would transmit messages to me from my etheric guides.  I had not personally experienced such a phenomenon before; though I’d always been into the metaphysical, I never thought something so ‘out there’ would happen to me.

childheart

The messages I received were very healing. I felt a connection to the spirit world I’d never felt before.  Though the rational, logical part of me wanted to doubt the validity of what was taking place – to convince myself it was a scam – this was in no way a money-making or ego-boosting venture for J.  Of this I was sure.

In one of our last sessions together, J advised that I would soon be ‘jumping ship’.  She asked me to look out into the harbour, of which there are several in my city, as one boat’s name would call out to me.  Well, in the 10+ years since our meeting, I’ve scanned many a harbour, searching for that one special boat that would deliver the magical answer I’ve been searching for!  (To what question, I don’t know.  Only now do I realize that hundreds of boats have been communicating with me – most recently, ‘Synchronicity’ and ‘Shakti’.)

I have never forgotten J’s message of jumping ship.  In the early days of hearing these words, I took them to mean physical escape. That I would soon leave my city, my family, my work, my community…all those things I felt bound me to an existence that wasn’t truly ‘me’.  I would start life anew, happier and freer than ever before.

And, in some ways, I did escape. I moved to different locations and tried different jobs.  But I soon found out – Wherever I go, there I am.  I couldn’t escape my head, my thoughts, my fears, my heart.

It took a while for me to figure out that ‘jumping ship’ did not mean ‘running away’.

***

Last week was an emotional wringer.  Two separate incidences triggered a mass of deep pain – and anger – within me.  Stuff I thought I’d dealt with, which had seemed under ‘control’, roared back with a vengeance. I searched for the best feelings I could, tried to think the best thoughts I could…but nothing could pull me out of the deep funk.  I just had to sit with those feelings and, painful as they were, surrender into them.  They clearly weren’t going anywhere.

I was actually experiencing a feeling of terror that I would never be able to let go of my self-limiting thoughts and beliefs – it felt as though they were energetically choking me.  Like my demons were writhing within.  And in this place of intense discomfort I realized that my only hope and recourse – my only way out – was to hold on for dear life to the idea, as fragile a thread as it was, as foreign a concept as it’d been in the past, that Am Love.

theharbour

For some months now I’ve been deriving great comfort from Abraham-Hicks’ assertion that I have the power to create any life that I want.  But last week was a major reality check.  I was forced to really look at myself: am I full of shit?  Do I really, deep down, believe what I say?  Are my words just words?  Is there really an energetic place (the vortex) where all my desires are just waiting for me to claim them?  Am I worthy of them?  Do I believe or do I doubt?

I’m still feeling a little raw, but as the days go by, there is more and more lightness and relief.  I’m realizing on a deep and profound level that jumping ship is an internal process.  Jumping ship means finally letting go of the self-doubt, resentment, and guilt I’ve been carrying for years. It means truly having enough of the pain and frustration I’ve been so accustomed to.

It means knowing there are no more excuses to avoid the necessity – and inevitability – of holding myself to a higher standard; of accepting that I Really Am Love, and allowing that love to flow in, out, and through me.  Even (especially?) when that love feels elusive.  It means I can’t view life in terms of struggle.  It means keeping up with the joyous expansion that is my true nature.

There’s no other option.  If I want to truly evolve and grow in this life, I can’t hold on to what’s anchored me for years – familiar as it may be.

My channelling friend did also say that I would be moving on to the ‘Good Ship Lollipop’. (She/they liked to speak in riddles).  At the time I had no idea what that meant, and only recently Googled the lyrics for the tune. Reading them made me laugh.

Oh yes, the time’s about right.  I’m ready to dive in.