Wisdom of the Pain Body

A text exchange early this morning with someone who knows and loves me well:

“My own pain body screaming for everything to feel easier. Anger, irritation, impatience–and sadness beneath it all. Staying with it, feeling fully, letting it in. Crying. Maezen’s wisdom: We don’t practice because we want to. This is life, this moment, bell chimes, off to work.”

“Stop what you’re doing. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Envision your pain place–color, texture, shape. Start a conversation, see if it has wisdom to offer. Pay deep attention to it as if it were one of your girls hurting. Take a slow walk. Stay with it. Stay. Nothing matters more.”

Aviva had jump-rope camp this week. She “hated” it, said she was bored. We flexed with her, working in some play-dates and a fabulously fun-filled day mid-week with her favorite babysitter. This afternoon was the show. I arrived ten minutes before it was scheduled to begin. The campers and counselors were playing duck-duck-goose in a big circle in the middle of the church hall where they spent the week. I watched as the girls went around and around. I watched Aviva, occasionally raising her hand to indicate that she hadn’t been picked yet. I waited. I noticed how strong my own desire was for someone to tap her with a “Goose!”–though nobody did. She looked distant, quiet, every now and then catching my eye.

I pictured her as a baby girl in my arms.

An hour later, after the show, she was visibly upset. “You and Dada were talking to each other the whole time.” I felt instant remorse for our poor modeling, knowing full well that if she and Pearl had been talking, whispering even, during a show, I would have shushed them. In the parking lot, I forked over the $6.37 I owed her from a transaction last weekend. She took the money but turned down my offer of an extra quarter in interest and climbed into Greg’s car. He and I stood there for a few moments before hugging goodbye. I walked away, a well of tears behind my shades, and drove back to work.

Color, texture, shape. Start a conversation, see what wisdom it has to offer. Stay.

All day I stayed with what I recently heard referred to as the pain body.

I stayed as I watched a bunch of girls do jump-roping tricks I doubt I could ever master. As I teared up at their girlhoods, seeing their bodies on the cusp of change, some clearly having fun, smiling, others just trying to do their part. Stayed as I stopped by the house I recently vacated to pick up my snow tires and a security deposit. Stayed as I sat through a meeting about a new product at work, uncrossing my legs, hands in my lap, counting my breaths in meditation, noticing the sensation of restlessness.

I also strayed.

I made a second iced latte in the kitchen at work. I checked email, Facebook, Twitter, blog stats–the whole online world a siren song, luring me both into and away from the choppy waters of the mood that persisted all day, tufts of pollen floating on a lake of sadness. I called a friend who just had surgery to check in on her and see if she was still up for a visit this evening–then shared with her how I was feeling and rescheduled our visit for one day next week. I accepted Ashley’s offer to make me a drink, dinner, and dessert after work.

And all the while, I knew I couldn’t blame anything for my tension, tempted as I was. Oh, how compelling the inclination to blame! To denounce the heat! Condemn the crowd of scenarios I’ve been playing with about future plans! Internalize how unhappy Aviva seemed this afternoon! Ruminate on the recent transition from house-sitting to being back home–but only part of the time! Worry about meeting my mounting responsibilities at work! A three-alarm fire requiring immediate extinguishing!!!

What wisdom it has to offer…

Its wisdom: Be with What Is, sans the urgency of exclamation points.

Its wisdom: Accept even its rejection of my meager attempts to converse, its refusal to let me alter its color, shape, or texture, its insistence that I not to try to “fix” anything.

Its wisdom: To not project stories that augment and amplify what will naturally change by itself. To not take it personally. To notice.

The act of staying itself was the only wisdom I could glean, and I know this is, must be, enough.

There are all kinds of stories I think about telling here but don’t, that whole balancing act between private and public. But writing about practice is practice itself, and does not require divulging every detail and story. Lord knows, you have your own details, your own stories, your own transitions and pain places and projections… but practice, that is something we can all use more of–if not because we want to, then because it is the only way to let these moments move through us instead of us doing anything possible to avoid them, or becoming encased in a cage of prickly irritation, road rage, useless guilt, or whatever today’s pain-body form du jour might take.

The past is history, the future’s a mystery, and today is a gift. That’s why they call it the Present.

Aviva told us this not long ago, unaware that we’d heard it before, read it on countless water-colored greeting cards or in emails gone viral. To her, it wasn’t a cliché, but a phrase worth repeating–one that I could stand to hear again, as if for the first time.

3 thoughts on “Wisdom of the Pain Body

  1. Pamela says:

    This is fabulous. It’s so real and you did it so skillfully. I learned so much from you about that balance of public and private … I wish I read this a week ago. I had gum surgery and was so IN my pain body of physical pain. Which brought up emotional pain. I strayed until I couldn’t. Then I stayed and learned a lot.

    Thank you so much for this!


  2. Lindsey says:

    Outrageously real, honest, true, and wise – as usual. Also, precisely what I needed to hear. I was aggravated and snappish yesterday, angry, and could feel my toxic mood seeping into the minds of my family. I couldn’t stop. What did I have to learn there? I don’t know, but I am newly inspired to stop, stay, and try to learn. Thank you. xo



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