Pain . . . What good is it?
I try to avoid it as much as possible. For instance, I shift my body away from any physical ache that has taken up residence in a joint, a muscle, a nerve. And I move my body to a different place to ease the pain or at least soften it.
Sometimes, it works. But sometimes it tears into my psyche, bringing with it a fear that this discomfort, this thorn will continue to haunt me, raising its head more and more as I feel the aging process more keenly and with it, an unwanted sense of my mortality, my deterioration and the inevitable end that I will some day meet. When the pain increases and I can’t steer my mind away from it, I know deep inside that end is not so very far away!
I did not like the pain I felt while simply walking today. The “walk” was part of a mindfullness meditation practice whereby you focus on your feet and try to “be in the moment” as much as you can, sans the chattering of the busy “monkey mind.” By focusing on your feet, our teacher said, you can become more aware of the moment, and use the touch and feel of the feet coming in contact with the carpeted floor as the “breathing” technique you use while seated with your eyes closed. I walked with my eyes open, trying to stare at nothing but the floor just a few feet ahead of my steps and the legs of the person walking in a wide circle in front of me.
At first, I got into this practice, enjoying the moderate pace I could set by taking steps slightly longer than “baby steps.” I did not have to slow down and walk like the others who appeared to have hit a “slow” button” like the one on a tape recorder. They creeped along, or at least, seemed to be “creeping,” almost zombie-like, to my view, which remains stuck in the “passing lane” always obeying the “fast” button. I’m a man of action. I don’t do anything slow. I try to move with a purpose, as if I already know where I’m going and what path is the best one to take me there.
If you decrease your movements, I have learned, you increase your chances of getting hurt, getting caught, allowing yourself to show too much. Moving quickly prevents others from seeing you up close, seeing your frailties, your fears, your well-disguised shyness, loneliness — your feeling . . . of . . . always . . . being . . . alone.
My teacher is wise, and I want to believe that she suggested we take our steps even slower and more deliberately when she directed us to place all of our weight on one foot — to feel the heaviness, the shifting of the weight as it moves from one point of the same leg to another of its point, and then to notice as the weight slowly presses down on the other leg, the one that had momentarily been the “resting leg.
I hated it.
I hated to slow down to this level of movement (non-movement). I was not used to doing this, not used to the discomfort that each step by impossibly slow step generated.
I fell against a wall.
I lost my balance. I hated the pain I felt throughout my left side, my bad side, and I did not want anyone else to see how uncoordinated this was making me appear. Decades after wearing the uniform, I still see myself as the sturdy, reliable soldier. A guy who can tough it out, take a punch, and not give into the physical weakness I showed.
I hated to dwell on how the pain from my lower lumbar — my back — stretched down through my leg, knocking out a prop of my equilibrium and shouting to all what type of physical doofus this garrulous Greek really was all along.
Worse yet, was the real pain. Not the intensity or the sharpness. But, the pain of knowing this nagging ache has plagued me for nearly 10 years now and the awareness — the knowledge I had to finally admit — that the pain will be there 10, 20 maybe even 30 years more.
Along with other ailments that have cropped up through the aging process. (Not to mention PTSD (post traumatic “mo fo” stress disorder.)
I don’t want to focus on this! I don’t want any reminder of such a downhill process!
I want to rage against any and all of this reality. Why stick my face into it? Let me focus on peace and love, not pain and death.
Let me Be.
Being with the pain, embracing it, is part of the awareness process, I later learned in our Meditation Sitting. Being in the Moment includes all of me, not just the “me” I want to put forward along this Journey.
[…] I was reminded of this when I suggested to a novice to the Middle Way to try the “body scan” method of guided meditation. She sat for 25 minutes in group and grappled with one thought after another. She took her first steps toward enlightenment. Baby steps. With little guidance, she made through sitting mediation. A brief walking mediation followed and if her experience was anything like my first walk, she probably felt awkward, unbalanced and out-of-shape. (See: Why must this path hurt so much?) […]