Bringing Kindness to Pain

When you see a tree growing in the woods, do you say to yourself, that tree sure could be straighter or taller or more tree-like? Do you pick on it and find fault? Or do you appreciate it for its beauty, its shade on a hot day, or its display of colors in the fall? 

Personally, I love trees. I see trees and I am so struck by something I cannot even name. I am filled with awe and wonder. I react to all kinds of trees in this way, especially if they are growing in unexpected places - like coming out of a rock - or are particularly snarled.

If trees are not your thing, what is? What do you love? What is something that you deeply appreciate when you see it, something you greet with care no matter how it appears? What touches your heart?

Now You

Before we go on, notice how it feels to deeply care for something or someone. How would you greet them? What would you say or do? Can you imagine being gentle and caring? Can you imagine loving them with all of their snarly imperfections?

Photo by Kate Grigg

Now, can you imagine greeting yourself in this same way? For some of us, that can be challenging, especially if we are in pain. We may feel impatient, frustrated or annoyed. That is absolutely understandable. When I am in pain, my first unconscious reaction is usually some version of "what is wrong now?" said in a not-so-nice way. I have to practice bringing kindness to myself and to my pain. 

The Practice

Here is what strikes me about this. If I am in pain and mad about it, I am fighting with myself. Not only am I uncomfortable because I am in pain, I am uncomfortable because I am moving away from the pain in some way. Maybe I am tensing around it or constricting my muscles. I am wishing the pain were not there and doing something on a body level to try not to feel it. And I am cranky about it.

If, however, I pause and remember that I could greet my pain the way I greet the trees I love, my experience changes. The pain may or may not feel exactly as it did. Oftentimes, I soften and the pain shifts or lessens to some degree. Even if that is not the case, I still feel more at ease because I am no longer fighting a part of me.

This can be a challenging practice. In my experience, it is worth it. I like to think of it this way: each time we can bring kindness to ourselves, we are building a reservoir. One drop at a time is all it takes. Over time, the reservoir grows and it becomes easier to access.

You do not have to be in pain to try this. At anytime you can imagine a drop of love being absorbed in your body and in your reservoir of kindness. As you do this, your capacity to love you grows.

May you be at peace