Manage. This is what I did for myself in the beginning. I managed. Once I realized that this is what I was doing, a whole world of options opened up to me. As I researched managing pain I found a wealth of information from hospice workers. The most helpful came from reading Buddhist Teacher, Zen Priest, Medical Anthropologist, and Author Joan Halifax. At first reading about pain was scary, but quickly it was quieting. Comforting. I started learning about meditative management of pain. No, it wasn’t easy. Often I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand words, ideas, faiths. I didn’t want to sit, I couldn’t focus, I had no patience, and was easily bored, but I did it. My life became about this. I eliminated all non essential things in my life that interfered with this new focus. Yes, this included unsupportive family and friends. This was a matter of life and death. Death being the life swallowing symptoms I was working against.
I knew nothing of Buddhism. I knew little about what meditation really was. I just moved forward. I focused. I bought a Buddhist magazine called Shambhala Sun, I read, and read, and read. As I did this I started to learn that I could quiet my body’s reaction to pain, to stress, to fear and especially to outside factors like loud children, traffic noise, phone calls. I started to become aware of myself and my body in a way that had seemed dangerous all of those years before. I had spent half a life time learning to ignore what I was feeling so that I could survive. Now I was focusing on it. Everything started to slow down. Slooooow down. Feelings and pain and stress and fear stopped flying at me and floated around instead. I started feeling separate of these things. A big shift from feeling like I was made of them.
The pain still rose up, but it wasn’t having the same effect on me. It wasn’t so sharp, so unbearable. I started to understand this ‘Brain-fog’ thing because I could see it more clearly. I wasn’t fogged. I wasn’t confused. I didn’t have memory troubles. I was tired. My brain was tired. Sometimes more than others. From this tired brain place it was easy to go on auto pilot and react to the world as it happened to me. As I slowed down and became more aware of all that was happening in my body I was able to slow down the world around me too. When previously I could not find time for sleep, or accomplish it, I was now able to open up space for this in my life. Even when I meant bringing the kids into the bedroom with me, setting the up with something and napping between them. Bit by bit the life inside our home changed to accomodate what I needed. I did not make a list and demand that it adopted by my family so that they could tell me why this could not happen. I moved life myself. I changed and it affected change.
Remaining calm and peaceful became a high priority. When my family realized how much more functional and healthy I could be in a calm environment they started to prioritize this too. It wasn’t over night. We didn’t know what was happening as it was happening. It just shifted, imperceptibly, as I shifted. As we realized that I was getting better, even in the presence of devestating regressions, it became easier to allow me the things that I needed to get better. When we began to believe (together) that I would get well, it became simple to make sure that we were protecting that progress by letting other priorities go for a while. Life shifted. It became about healing. Living was put aside. Chores, expectations, commitments, these things were placed below all things that led to healing.
It was like starting to finally see a hint of that light that was supposed to be at the end of the lightless tunnel I had started traveling. It was the breath of life, the ray of sun, that was rewarded after all the promiseless trials. And there were many, many promiseless trials. There were more coming too. It didn’t really matter though. This healing thing had taken a life of it’s own and I was being carried through it, pushed through it, pulled through it and sometimes crawling through it of sheer will.
I had no idea how long this tunnel was. I had no idea how far I may or may not have come. There came a point when it didn’t matter anymore. I wasn’t focused on the light at the end. I was learning to focus on the best here and now that could be achieved. I was learning to experience each moment in the best way possible, pain or no, fatigue or no, strain or percieved failure or not. Each thing was going to be experienced in the best way that it could be.
It was an astounding lack of judgment. It took me a while to realize that shift, but when I did it opened up yet another stash of tools for the process.
I read more. I perused the book ads and reviews in Shamala sun and found two books that would become very important to me. Two books that would act like security blankets and start to carry me back into every day life. They were The Four Agreements and The Power of Now. If someone had told me that these two books would have anything to do with healing I would never have picked them up. I wouldn’t have believed such a thing and thus would have chosen to not waste my time. But no one told me that and they intrigued me, so I was able to pick them both up and simply read.
I read them ever, ever so slowly. Trying to understand every single sentence. To follow every single paradigm shift, and to take a break when I couldn’t follow anymore.
I was truly astounded to discover that these two books helped me manage the pain. It went against everything I had ever been taught, told or previously believed, but it was very real.
I was getting better and it was time to refine my practice… discover what was truly working and give it more. Learn more. Heal more.