We use the term, a pain in the neck, to say that something is causing us trouble or is the source of our unhappiness. Sometimes a pain in the neck or a pain in the back in my case or even a terrible cold can teach us something important. I am not sure if this is true for chronic pain but it does seem to be true for me with acute pain or illness. I had a terrific reminder this week when I was suddenly faced with a terrible back ache. I hadn’t been working in the yard or even schlepping Passover boxes or doing anything else particularly strenuous when it happened. In fact, I am not sure what brought it on, all I know is it took me down, literally, because one of the few places that felt comfortable was lying down on my back. Luckily, I was able to listen to my body and take the time to rest my back and not push through the pain. This gave me time to both allow my body to have pain, acknowledge the pain and appreciate how lucky I am when I don’t have any kind of pain in my body. I loved listening to what my body was teaching me.
I found that my body was needing rest and stillness. I was even able to have some meditation time in a prone position while icing my sore back. The combination of resting with the ice and meditating was not unpleasant, in fact, I might even say I enjoyed the time and space to be awake and mindful in that horizontal position.
Allowing myself time was probably the biggest challenge. We are all busy people. We have things to do and meetings to keep and not being able maintain our schedule can be very difficult. But if we are listening to our bodies when they scream at us, “Help me, I am hurting and I need some attention,” then sometimes we have to cancel an appointment, or stay home for a day or two or miss something important. But isn’t your body worth that? It’s the ultimate self-care to listen to your body when it asks for some extra attention.
My biggest “aha” was while attending my weekly yoga class. I debated if I should go, not sure it was actually good for me to do any yoga and emailed my teacher to explain what was going on. His reply was “COME! Even if you need to just rest in shavasana (corpse pose) you will be receiving the energy of the class.” He’d done the same thing after he’d broken his spine a few years back. I am so glad I went. It was an incredible class. I was fully present in my body feeling every move intensely both when it felt helpful and when I felt a twinge or something painful. I listened deeply to what my body was telling me the entire class. I have been practicing yoga for years and attending a class knowing that I would not be able to do all the poses, knowing that I might have to stay on my back or in child’s pose when the class was doing other movements was liberating. It allowed me to be focused completely on my own body and what my body needed in that moment. I felt my breath and my stillness profoundly during the class. It was a deep and powerful experience.
Today, after 48 hours I am happy to say that my back pain has subsided. I am grateful for the new perspective I have on how lucky I am when my body functions without my noticing it, without pains. I am also aware now that a pain can also be an opportunity to listen to what our body is asking us to do – take care of it, slow down, breathe, maybe even stop and be still. When we do take care of our bodies physically, mentally and spiritually they return to us with stronger health and intuition. I am thanking my body today for all of that amazing wisdom that comes even through discomfort and pain.