Discover the Wisdom of Pain
“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” – Pema Chodron
The title of this blog post, “Discover the Wisdom of Pain,” may seem odd to some. Putting the word “pain” and “wisdom” together can be thought of as paradoxical. Yet it is through pain, illness and injury that we sometimes discover true wisdom – where life’s jewels become more crystal clear to us.
This blog post is intended for anyone who is currently facing any kind of chronic body pain or condition that is not going away, despite medical treatment or alternative therapies you have been receiving. While I am a big fan of individuals taking whatever steps they need to take to help them heal, I also have experienced that pain or illness often stays with us for a simple reason: it wants us to sit down and listen.
When I was 21 years old, I suffered a horrible back injury that left me in severe chronic pain for four years. I tried every kind of intervention possible from conventional medical treatment to the most esoteric of energy healings. Nothing seemed to help my pain go away until I made one significant change: I stopped needing may pain to go away and started listening to what my pain was trying to tell me.
In my own case, my back pain had a lot to say: It told me that I had been living way too much from a place of striving and ambition, that I had overdone trying to prove myself worthy through various achievements and accomplishments. It told me that it was time to sit with and express some emotions, particularly anger and sadness, that I had long hidden away inside me, and were being stored in my back. It told me that it was time to love myself – all of myself – deeply, by taking care of my body, mind and heart. It told me that it was time to stop doing what I thought other people wanted me to do with my life and to start following my own dreams. And so I did.
Had I chosen not to listen to the wisdom that was being uncovered through my back pain, I may well have continued on for many years trying to “make my pain go away.” Yet, as Pema Chodron so beautifully states in the quote above: Nothing goes away until it teaches us what we need to know. And so I chose instead to learn from the back pain whatever I needed to know.
If you are experiencing chronic pain right now that is not being alleviated with medical intervention, I invite you to contemplate the following questions:
- If you were to love and appreciate the pain you are feeling, what would it want to say to you? How is the pain trying to help you by getting your attention?
- If you were to let go of trying to get rid of your pain, and instead make space for the pain to be a source of guidance in your life, what wisdom would the pain want to share with you? What is working in your life right now? What is no longer working? What shift is it time to make in your life so that you are more deeply aligned with your true self?
In answering these questions, I recommend taking time to allow images and intuitions come. Sometimes wisdom speaks to us more powerfully through images and intuitions than through language. In my one-to-one work with private clients, I have noticed that individuals who take time to draw or paint what their pain is trying to tell them, or write a poem expressing the wisdom of the pain, or who ask for guidance in some other non-verbal fashion, are able to access wisdom beyond that which their thoughts alone may be able to produce. I encourage you to let yourself enter a dream space through art-making, poetry-making, music-making, dance-making or through whatever ways help give the pain your are experiencing the full power to speak its wisdom.
Perhaps the most important thing of all for contacting the pain’s wisdom is simple: it is an attitude shift. It is the simple shift from hating or pushing away the pain to loving and being grateful for the pain. This is not always easy, but I have seen profound results in myself and others from this key shift in how we hold our pain.
Many blessings to you on your journey, and may you discover whatever wisdom is wanting to be unleashed inside of you.
Suraya Keating, MFT has a private psychotherapy practice in Marin County, California, and also works with clients via Skype sessions. She loves helping people to set free the wisdom that is often hidden in “pain,” and to live from a place of love, vitality and well-being. Contact Suraya at firstname.lastname@example.org for current availability and rates.