Recent months have brought some serious pain into my life in several areas. In February I experienced trauma to my back which, added to daily work that requires I sit at a computer for hours on end, ultimately resulted in a bulging disc in my lumbar region. The extreme physical pain has kept me from enjoying my favorite activities, such as hiking and swimming.
Another source of pain of an emotional nature is my rapidly ailing mother who most of my life was a role model of extreme health and fitness. In just the last several months she has been afflicted with severe dementia and now cannot hold a coherent conversation.
My beloved yellow lab was crippled in her rear legs by rat poison just two days before Christmas and has not yet healed. She nearly died and now can only walk a block or so. Before she somehow ingested the poison from who-knows-where (or whom), she hiked many miles with me, up and down steep hills and racing across meadows.
Old almost-forgotten wounds from past emotional hurts crept up unexpectedly, taking me by surprise.
Rather than whining and asking for pity, I write this as an exploration of the nature of pain and how it effects us.
When pain is present, it is hard to think of anything else. I am slowly learning to be with pain rather than wish it away, and to ask what it might be trying to tell me. Perhaps there is some aspect of my life that is out of balance. Perhaps my life is too filled with things I “must do”. Perhaps my dog, my mom, and others who suffer are just fulfilling their destiny. Whatever the reason, if I cannot change what is happening, I choose to accept it. Acceptance of severe pain is extremely challenging. I have become an even more compassionate person through my episodes of extreme pain. I cannot imagine how anyone lives with severe pain all the time. Life is so precious. If I find something for which I can be grateful, and of course I always can, my pain seems so much less important. Mom had an amazing life and it is my honor to be with her even if it is merely my physical presence which brings her comfort. Beings are born, Beings die, and the world continues. As ants infested our kitchen, I contemplated how short their little lives are compared to so many other critters. How did we human beings get so incredibly lucky to be born as we are, on this amazing planet, with brains, a conscience, bodies capable of miracles, and spirits which can soar? Life isn’t forever, and neither is pain. I wish for all creatures to be free of suffering. Practice lovingkindness, to yourself as well as others. Namaste!