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


Where is the Pause Button?

This is week I have been wanting to pause time. I kept finding myself racing ahead to the next thing and the next. My mind was consumed by thoughts of the future and my whole body felt tense and on edge.

I wanted to slow down. I wanted my body to relax. I wanted to feel and believe that, somehow, everything would be okay and my world would not come crashing down if I put down my to-do list. I wanted time to be doing absolutely nothing and to not feel guilty about it. 

Pausing Time

How do we pause time? One simple way is to breathe, or as I have heard it said in yoga class, let you body be breathed. You can try it right now. Let the air come into your lungs. Feel the air going out. Witness your body breathing. You do not have to do anything, it happens on its own. Your body knows how to breathe.

Even as I type, I feel more relaxed and less rushed. I am coming into the present moment. There is nothing more to do here than to breathe for this one moment. We can rest in our breathing for one breath, two, maybe three or four. That is enough to slow ourselves down.

Perhaps you are like me and you notice your mind jumping ahead to the next moment. Not a problem. That is what our minds do. They are busy and incredibly active. That is their job. We can thank our minds for doing what they know how to do and we can return to our breath for another moment. In this way, we cultivate slowing down. It is a slowing down that happens on a body level. We are inviting our body into another way of being.

Real Life

Okay, so that was nice, you may be thinking, but now I have to go...make dinner, get the kids, go back to work or fill in the blank. I understand the reality of our daily lives is that we have a lot going on. We are busy people. What if we can take the feeling of slowing down right into the middle of our full days? Even as we are doing whatever task is at hand, we can remember that we are also breathing. We can invite a sense of slowing down and pausing in the midst of our daily comings and goings.

We can also find time in between things. I suspect there are plenty of moments each day when you have pause points. The next time you are waiting in line or stuck in traffic, feel your breath in your body and notice if anything shifts. 

Taking a Break

It can be challenging to simply pause. Admittedly, this week I had a hard time doing that. I was restless. I kept internally badgering myself. That happens sometimes.

What did I do? I got outside. I gave myself permission to take a break from all the things on my mind. I carved out time in my days so I could walk in the park. That is where I found my stillness. I sat on the trunk of a tree that had recently fallen. I lay on the grass under one of my favorite oaks. I let the earth hold me. There I felt my body and mind slow down. That is what sustained me through the week.

It some paradoxical way, when we slow down and take breaks, we have more time. That has been my experience. Everything that needs to happen still gets done. Somehow when we have more space for us, there is more space for everything.

I invite you to try it today. Pause to feel your breath. Take a break and get outside. I trust there is enough time in each day for us to slow down.