Pain & the Present
Pain may be one of the most misunderstood feelings that we experience as humans and rightfully so. In the coming weeks, we will explore the range of importance that pain plays in our lives.
What is Pain? Though there are many ways to define it, I’d like to ponder a simple idea. Pain is sensation. Its our body’s way of communicating from the unconscious self to the conscious self. Once conscious of the sensations and pain, we are thrust into the present moment.
Pain is the conversation your body has with you in the moment to share its limitations or injuries. It tells of the boundary between movements that are safe and unsafe. Pain shows us injury and where we are in need of immediate attention. It tells us if we have gone too far, if we need to slow down, if we need to stop entirely. Often, we avoid it. We move to get out of pain, change our shape or compensate to avoid the loud sensations accompanying it. I invite you to pause and listen to what your pains are telling you.
Life often presents us with opportunities to stop. Sometimes we are forced to take pause because of some traumatic incident or an accident. The traumas are loud and are heard immediately. Sometimes life whispers warnings, offering us more subtle information and choices that emerge with them. When transitioning too quickly through life, those warnings go unheeded. They then accumulate and we are forced to refocus, to manage the moments at hand. Pain works similarly. Minute warnings in the form of abnormal sensations can occur consistently . Our consciousness grows tired of their constant nagging and ignores them; forcing them into the back ground of our unconscious. We become desensitized to the low grade pains. As we become deaf to the whispers and ignore these clear boundaries in our body, we travel down a path toward repetitive strain injury. Repetitive strain injuries then graduate from low grade consistent pain to loud pain.
Repetitive strain injury are traumas that develop in the muscles, fascia, joints, bones or nerves as a result of over use of the body in irregular ways. The ignored whispers from these minor communications that accumulate can emerge as traumas or injuries. We then say things like, “I slept on my neck wrong” or “I turned around too fast.” In reality, these are minor repetitive strains were finally accompanied by the straw that broke the camels back. Thats when the loud acute pain takes over.
When we develop a practice of listening to pains and sensations, no matter what volume they are spoken, we can learn the language of our bodies. Pain and sensation are the communications of the unconscious self to our conscious self. They are asking us to pay attention. They are offering us a clear path to the present moment. Pain & sensation and the language they speak can become our greatest teacher. They can offer us a clear path toward healing and health as it relates to our physical form. By paying attention in the moment, we hear the communications of our body. With understanding and guidance we can interpret those messages in order to facilitate our bodies natural healing processes.
For example, often folks tell me about the pain they carry in their superior angle of the shoulder blade. It will hurt a little from time to time and then flare up intensely. They will ignore it and continue on with their life. Often patterns of pain like this can emerge with too much computer or smart phone use. But it doesn’t stop us from using our devices in an inefficient way. Then one day we wake up with a kink in our neck, a severe pain that prevents us from accessing our normal range of motion. And we attribute this injury to ‘sleeping on it wrong’ or ‘not my usual pillow.’ When in truth, this pattern has been mounting for weeks, months or sometimes longer and that nights sleep was the straw that broke the camels back. The repetitive strain injury became loud and acute due to an event but the injury itself was growing quietly with minor pains or communications from your nervous system telling you to make a change. (Learning how to listen and interpret these communications will be a topic for another “Musing” or you can check my teaching schedule. See you in class.)
Our spiritual practices often invite us to form a relationship to the eternal present moment – “the now” Our minds are easily distracted. The language of our bodies can be lost in similar distractions. But the whispers and screams that pain delivers can not to be ignored. The language of our body offers us an opportunity to reorient to the present moment like no other feeling. It will guide us toward understanding the capabilities of our form and the most functional ways to facilitate healing and health.
Follow me next week as we further explore What is Pain? Coming, Going and Storage