Pain is almost always viewed as something negative, as something we must strive to avoid. But pain has its role to play too.
There is a point to pain.
In the words of someone close to my heart, “Pain is a prod to remembrance” and it can provide a route to healing parts of ourselves that we may not even have been aware were wounded. It can provide a pathway to self-transformation and the opportunity for transmutation of the shadow into the light.
I’ve had another miscarriage – a “missed miscarriage” this time: the baby died in utero but my body did not reject it so it had to be removed surgically. I only started bleeding three weeks after the baby had died. It was removed from my womb two weeks later. It’s been one week since the operation and it’s been tough. Very tough.
On this occasion, I have had to deal with physical trauma as well as with emotional trauma. I’ve had to deal with feeling battered and bruised after the operation: I couldn’t move my left arm for two days, my right hand and arm were badly bruised and I was spitting up blood for five days. But what has perhaps affected me even more than this has been the anxiety preceding and following the operation. It has almost been unmanageable. Nevertheless, it’s been this anxiety that has prompted me to explore what was fuelling it and has encouraged me to engage in an open dialogue with my pain.
When I peer into the mirror Life raises up to me, it exposes the fragility of existence, the weakness of the physical body – not just the baby’s but, more worryingly, my own – I see how everything can change in an instant and how the challenge is to be able to adapt to these changes and not only accept them but embrace them lovingly. I see how attached I am to my body. I see that I have to unlearn the process of false identification with pain, which is my body’s and mind’s and not my own. In looking at the reflection in the mirror, I remind myself that I am energy and I will return to Source. I remind myself that Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed from one form to another. I remind myself that I too am an actor on the stage of life and I too will need to exit at some point. I remind myself to let go and surrender to the flow of life as opposed to clutching and clinging to that which is transient. I remind myself that Death isn’t real.
Although this begins to soothe me, Life continues to hold up the mirror and insists that I scrutinise what I see in the reflection: I realise that what I really see is fear.
Fear. Disappointment. Disillusionment. Fear of mortality. Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt. Fear.
I am fearful because all that has passed has been completely out of my control.
It is only that this point that I realise that the desire for absolute control over my life has been fuelling and fanning the embers of pain.
Discriminative discernment is a blessing. Now that I can see what’s really going on, I can encourage pain towards the process of transformation.
As I have come to learn over the years, the only antidote to fear is love. And the basis of true love, as I understand it, is non-attachment. No clinging or clutching to anything. No grasping. No struggling to possess or to control. Simply put, it embodies an appreciation of what is and the wisdom to accept the ebb and flow of life.
The words of Ram Dass launch themselves at me from the recesses of my mind:
“When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.”
Like the trees’ gnarled and crooked branches, there is nothing wrong with feeling sad, or angry or disappointed or frustrated. Like the trees’ gnarled and crooked branches, there is nothing to judge when one has a miscarriage or two – or ten – and there’s nothing to judge about dis-ease or suffering. When you observe events in life as a set of natural phenomena following a set of natural laws you give yourself the freedom to detach emotionally from your own hopes and expectations. It is also a stark reminder that any notion of control that we have is misguided. As part of the natural world, we are inextricably connected with all else that is; so why, as a mere thread in the intricate tapestry of creation, should we feel that it is our right that our own personal agendas should be prioritised above all others? Although we can influence what occurs to us to an extent through our choices, there are forces greater than ourselves that we cannot outrun, outwit or avoid. Sometimes the healthiest thing we can do is trust, accept and let go.
Working with my pain has allowed me to refocus the narrative of the miscarriage and all else that passed in an empowering contextual framework where I am not a victim of a negative situation. Nature is both benevolent and boundless in Her wisdom. Yes, I struggled. Yes, I had a bad time. And that’s okay. Through understanding and acceptance, I have been able move on from pain and fear. Thanks to the process of self-analysis and the self-awareness that is a product of the process, I can take agency over something I definitely I can in my life: my reaction to things.
Obstacles and challenges are an integral part of the evolution of our internal lives, of our involution. Once we transcend these through the practice of non-attachment, our successes become signposts of emotional and spiritual maturity. Pain is there to help us understand our own capacities and resourcefulness and reveal to us some of the greatest truths of life. If a river flows easily, the water in the river does not express its power. If you obstruct the flow by creating a dam, only then do you become privy to its tremendous strength and enormous potential for transformation.
“Pain is a prod to remembrance”:
I am a spiritual being having a human experience.