Mind/Body Pain Relief | How My Work Works ... (written March 31, 2014)
In 2010 I discovered Vipassana Meditation by way of a book that showed up in the mail...a gift from my Dad. I devoured that book, resonating with what I was reading and how it was said. Halfway through, I applied online to sit a 10-day silent retreat at a Vipassana Meditation center only a few hours away. Even after having read about it, I didn't really know what I was getting into, I just knew I had to go. I was put on a waitlist as the upcoming retreat was only 2 months away and already full. A week or 2 before Day 1, I was contacted - a spot had opened up - I was going! Excited and scared, I mentally prepared as well as I could for the rigorous and challenging experience to come.
At the end of Day 1, I hobbled slowly to my bed, disoriented and in serious pain - mostly in my legs for having been sitting on them for 10 or 11 hours. I really wondered how I was ever going to repeat that routine 9 more times. It was excrutiatingly painful. I was sure I was going to 'ruin' my legs if i sat like this for 10 days, 10 hours a day. Surely they will turn black from lack of circulation and I will get necrosis, the most bizarre fearfull scenarios passed through me as I lay in bed that first night - permanent damage, blood clots, amputations. This can't be a good thing, I thought.
Day 4 was the most painful but also a day that altered my perception and understanding of my body....of all bodies. This day was an education, a pivotal growth experience that changed how I do bodywork. I discovered experientially, without any doubts, that the body is an extension of the mind, that the body actually IS the mind and since the mind is not a physical solid, neither is the body. Having gone beyond my edge, and then beyond my edge's edge, I exploded into a million pieces - experiencing myself as being completely solid to utterly not. The unbearable pain I was in shattered, along with my entire body; its identity un-masked, its true form revealed, it was revealed for what it really is rather than what i thought it was. Pieces of vibrating light. A dense impermanent unified sensation vibrating all around me, no longer an enemy, but a means to experience, to feel myself against. Myself being...eternal spirit. Without this dense sensation, I realized, I would not know existence. This "pain" gives me life. This pain offers me- my spirit- the opportunity to Live !
Not only did this dense light periphery that only moments before had been my body (on fire in pain) provide an experience of extreme discomfort, it also provided the holy experience of release. My spirit, released from all identification, all suffering, yet remaining within. Conscious and aware. Not transported or taken away, simply opened to a rooted heaven for staying with it, forgoing the urge to abandon pain, abandon myself, my wholeness. Now uncovered, the innermost infinite part, I realized, was untouched by any of life's traumas; unwounded, undamaged, unaltered, scarless. Beneath all of the imperfections rests and remains a perfect part. This vivid disassembling was also a remembering. A treasured Grace, teaching me much - one insight being that to the extent that I allow myself to go into pain, the possibilities are equal to that for the spectrum of bliss.
That being said, leading up to that terribly wonderful teaching, the natural reactions to the pain I was feeling were varied and numerous....some of which i did, others i just desperately wanted to do for relief. I share them as they are an important part of understanding this process......move positions, small shifts, large shifts, stand up, run away, pray, visualize it away, control it, laugh, drift into a daydream, dissociate, abandon, plan, curse, obsess, argue, crumble, rationalize, analyze, apologize (profusely), panic, cry, get angry, tell myself stories - repeatedly. And all of these reactions, I noticed, were precipitated by thoughts. Thoughts that all come from one common denominator - "Pain is BAD."
But in following the directions of how to Vipassana, I did my best to sit still, make no movements, and resisit doing any of the above listed reactions. It was in the sitting still, and in the resisting all desire to move and shift searching for comfort when a new relationship to pain really began. Letting go of the grip of what I thought I knew about the physical body, what i thought i knew about MY body was an extraordinary un-learning. What happened when I surrendered after much struggle was bits of the "pain" would transmute (sometimes quite large bits, sometimes smaller) and as this happened the sensations either dissipated, neutralized or even elicit a pleasant sensation - the grace, the relief that follows the letting go. It was very palpable, feeling the heavy and dense getting lighter. It was becoming very obvious that any sensation in my life that didn't fit into the category of a "good sensation" got categorized into a general account called "pain" and because "pain is bad" I held on, held in......Tight.
Getting on to how this experience was pivotal in how I approach bodywork now....after the retreat I had a new way of being with the sensations in my body and since I feel others' pain in my body, it was obvious that not only was I holding on tight to my own, but i had also been holding in that of the people i've massaged. ouch!
But, I reasoned, if my pain was impermanent and more physics than form, its source no longer a mystery, and I can have a new relationship with it, then I can also have a new relationship to other's pain and hence a new magical beginning that I continue to foster. Having privately struggled with being an empath for 40 years, and not really actually always handling it very well, I finally understood the mechanics of how that works. No longer would I sponge out others pains and add it to my growing account. From then forward, as I would feel in my body another's pain while massaging, I relax into the discomfort and transmute -for others- just as I had learned to do for myself. Instantly freeing heavy, immobile, inert, and trapped energy from head to toe, large bits and small. I had finally found a way to transform what used to be perceived as a very difficult trait - being extremely sensitive - into a gift, an offering. An offering for anyone willing to receive something outside the parameters of what they think is possible for their bodymind. All inclusive, this entire experience can be applied to many things in life and it continues to teach me, that there is even more to open to, to discover, to experience, if i can just let go of what i know :-)
"We have to enter the body to go beyond it and find out that we are not that". Eckhart Tolle