What do you do when you are on day seven of a pain flare up of your chronic condition that is so bad it is described as "too serious for numbers" on the pain chart? By that time all of the possible medication has been used, many complementary therapies too, not to mention a good old-fashioned hot bath or sauna, all to no avail. What next?
My first reaction as I read that Facebook post was to ask if the person had tried a Reiki healing session because that has a way of calming the body systems. Beyond that, I had no answer. Yet it bothers me that someone is in so much pain, and I ask myself the question I keep asking, “why is there so much suffering?” I want to believe there is a reason for it and lately I’ve been pondering the possibility of being able to find meaning through the suffering or the presence of the divine within chronic pain.
Outside of the pain flare-ups that accompany many chronic conditions I believe it is possible to find both meaning and the presence of the divine, though they are so intertwined that they are often found together and may even be considered the same. I found it most eloquently unfolding in the life of Cynthia Reyes as I read her book, A Good Home: A Memoir. Cynthia had a busy, productive life, filled with family, friends, neighbors, award winning work, and international travel but lost almost everything when she withdrew from life because of chronic pain.
Through her story she described the homes she lived in, the friends she made, the gardens she grew. Her last house move was meant to be the final one, the ‘forever house’ for the family but she was injured in a car accident just weeks prior to moving. Once in her new home she barely had the will to live and the house felt like a prison.
Bodies in chronic pain often feel like prisons, don’t they? Nelson Mandela lived in an actual prison for 27 years and was able to keep his focus on the peace and change he wanted for his country without letting bitterness take over. As a chronic pain sufferer we can do the same. I believe Cynthia hits the nail on the head as she remembers her mother quoting from her Bible, “Be still and know that I am God,” at a time when she rarely sat still. Then she says,
“Now I am forced to be still in body and mind, to contemplate God, myself, and other mysteries. To consider the presence of the divine in my life. It’s been there all along but I was too busy to connect the dots between the many events that seemed to come from nowhere to change my life or simply improve it.”
Perhaps, if there is a benefit to chronic pain, it is that you do tend to go within, to that part of yourself that you would only usually approach through meditation. Though in the busyness of life prior to having a chronic condition you would never normally have time, or find the time, to meditate. Now that you are forced to remain still more often and for longer periods of time why not use the quiet time to your benefit? Call it contemplation, or simply ‘me time’ if you like, but make it a distinct effort of focusing the mind on an object or your breath while allowing thoughts to rise and float away.
It is in that inner space, in the gap between the ebb and the flow of thoughts and focus, that hides the doorway to the deep, peaceful healing that goes far beyond the physical and the place where you can awaken the divine within yourself. As you become more in tune with your divine self you will also enhance your intuition and feel a different and more loving connection with life.
Nelson Mandela when finally released from prison went on to help his country remove apartheid and have their first democratic elections. Cynthia Reyes has found her way back to her love of writing stories and in doing so is learning to live again. Both spent a lot of time in quiet contemplation. Could meditation bring you to a place where you move beyond the pain and misery to find the presence of the divine within?
Have you ever thought of using your chronic pain to find that presence within your life or yourself? Did you even think it was possible?