The Healing Power of Presence in Pain & Discomfort
I write this reflection in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, where I am lucky to be home and well with much time to reflect. So I write this with hopes that it helps those who can relate, and affirms those who found a path otherwise. I write here about presence because it's what I'm seeking - I know some don't want to be present at this time and that's perfectly okay - whatever feels right to you is what you should follow. We don't always have to be present, but this is my journey towards wanting to find presence when I feel like I've strayed too far. I write this so you can feel seen too if you're on the same path.
I write this to remember - even when I do not feel present and peaceful, even when I forget, this wisdom is still within and is attainable for all of us at any time. We just need to process and channel it. Sometimes we need to let out a huge cry, scream into a pillow or go for a run before we get to this point. But we can always get here.
Finding the peaceful spot beyond the tension
In my experience, finding the center-point in myself, balance within my life, has often meant finding the sweet spot between internal needs and the external conditions. For me, it often takes tuning into how I feel and noting which phase of my cycle I am on in tandem with what is happening in the world in real time, what phase the moon is in and what astrological influences are inter-playing.
EVERYTHING IS ENERGY, SO HOW IT ALL INTERACTS IS WHAT MAKES UP OUR EXISTENCE. AND HOW WE FEEL AMONG IT ALL IS VITAL INFORMATION OUR BODY IS TRYING TO TRANSLATE FOR US; INSTRUCTIONS WE MUST BE STILL AND LISTENING FOR IF WE ARE TO FOLLOW THEM THROUGH.
The present moment is what exists where it all meets, when we slow down to notice, without conflict but instead with acceptance and ease. Ease being non-resistance to being there.
This is not to say that finding presence is "easy" or painless. Often we have to sit present with our pain to find the center-point; true presence. To transcend the uncomfortable state of our physical, emotional and worldly conditions, we must find acceptance in some form. It doesn't mean we have to do nothing or feel defeated, it just means that the first layer to healing is acknowledging that it is what presently is; a sort of nod of surrender, to loosen our tight grip of control on things we don't actually have control over.
On the brink of bleeding during a global pandemic on a waxing first quarter moon in Cancer, I am feeling it all, I am an open portal of sensitivity.
MY INSTINCTUAL BODY IS TRYING TO DEFEND ME, CLOSING UP AND RESISTING THE VULNERABILITY THIS TIME REQUIRES. FIGHTING THAT TENSION THAT LIVES WITHIN ME WILL ONLY CREATE MORE TENSION. SO I MUST FIND ACCEPTANCE AND SIT WITH IT ALL.
So that is what brings me to sit in the grass and stare and daffodils and my favorite ginkgo tree. I am grateful I can do this. Even though I'm still in the city, the air quality is questionable and children screaming muffles the birds I truly only want to listen to, I am thankful for this. I feel safer here among nature.
I come to nature when I am happy, but even more often when I am feeling lost. When I have a headache from spending too much time trying to escape on the internet. When I'm driving myself and my partner mad with my own tensions rising and space is what is needed.
JUST SITTING & ABSORBING IT ALL IS THE HARDEST PART.
There seems to always be some excuse or form of resistance. Common excuses for me are "I'll do it later", "I have other things to do", "I don't have time", "I don't feel like it". So it's about finding the balance of not feeling like I'm forcing myself, but also not giving into this dismissive internal voice that is really my survival instinct to always be "doing" instead of allowing myself to just be.
But once I'm able to do so, it all flows from there. The resistance is met with what feels like a gentle energetic hug - almost as if my inner self is thanking my conscious self for finally letting down the walls, letting myself lay down for a brief mental rest without worry. The world doesn't collapse when I pause mindfully, if anything my internal world becomes rebuilt so I can better meet the outer world.
I always ask myself why I didn't do it sooner? Why did it take me so long to get here and give myself a moment of peace? We can't beat ourselves up for the time it took but just be grateful for the fact that we got there, somehow, some way.
SURRENDER IS NEVER EASY. WE HAVE TO TAKE OUT TIME AND LISTEN TO OUR BODIES ALONG THE WAY, AND WHEN WE FIND OURSELVES FINALLY THERE, BASK IN IT.
A hand on my heart and stomach or womb, and a moment of patience. My body stops the aches and whines - it knows I'm finally present. Cramps cease when I put my hands here, my mind quiets, and my hands feel warm and healing.
I have found the peaceful shores of my inner realm.
The more I find my way to stillness the more I break down the wall of resistance around my heart & mind. I'll come back here more often.
Finding presence when we're tired of floating away from it & the guidance/answers that live in this space
In our modern era, our instinct is often to take action; to react. Combined with a social conditioning to keep busy and occupied through working or indulging in instantly-gratifying distractions such as social media, we are constantly pulled away from experiencing the moment. Sometimes this is fun or the desired mode, but the fact that it is default for many of us seems like something we didn't consciously choose.
There are days when I find myself escaping stillness for no reason, and instead of just sitting and listening to what I need, I cover it up with scrolling. Then I quickly go from feeling underwhelmed to overwhelmed - overloaded with input and influence from every direction but the one that matters - from within.
WHAT WE ARE MISSING THROUGH THESE UNINTENTIONAL MOMENTS OF DISTRACTION ARE OUR INTERNAL RESPONSES & COMMUNICATIONS - HOW WE TRULY FEEL AND WHAT WE TRULY NEED IN SITUATIONS. WHEN WE ARE ABLE TO NOTICE THIS GUIDANCE, WE LEARN, WE HAVE INSTRUCTIONS THAT HAVE COME FROM NO OTHER PLACE BUT OUR INNER SELVES. BUT WHEN WE IGNORE THEM, WE ARE SKATING OVER VITAL INFORMATION THAT OUR BODY IS TRYING TO TEACH US TO WORK WITH.
Sometimes we find presence unintentionally in blissful moments, such as walking through a beautiful garden or staring at a sunset or while kissing a partner or lover. It's easier, at times, to focus in on moments of enjoyment because we actually want to be a part of it.
On the contrary, it's very understandable that we want to diverge from the moments of opposite feeling - moments of pain or discomfort are where we don't want to spend our energy and attention. Where paying attention can feel traumatizing. Yet, learning from these moments is essential to our growth. So how can we do that without feeling triggered?
We are all in different places, and sitting with some painful feelings is not always accessible. But we can practice in simpler moments, if certain things are too traumatic to work through. It's all layers - so start somewhere simple.
The goal is to notice these moments, emotions, reactions... and not give into them, but just to acknowledge them. When we notice, we are allowing them to pass, without acting on them or repressing them.
WE DO NOT ALWAYS HAVE TO BE PRESENT. TAKING A BREAK FROM PRESENCE TO DO FUN AND LOOSE THINGS IS ALSO IMPORTANT TO KEEPING THE CHILD IN US ALIVE. BUT THE CHILD NEEDS TO ALSO FEEL SUPPORTED AND UNDERSTOOD - AND WE CAN DO THIS THROUGH WORKING WITHIN MOMENTS OF DISCOMFORT AND FINDING THE SEEDLINGS OF UNDERSTANDING IN THESE TIMES.
For me, right now, it's waking up in the morning and noticing but not giving into my anxiety or negativity that is chemically ingrained into my waking brain. It's working on not letting those feelings fester and take over, but it's also working on not repressing them through diving into scrolling on social media or jumping straight into work before I even give myself or these feelings the time of day.
What feels like a cure is often coping, a cover up. And that's okay at times when you need to simply work through intensity, but if you are looking to transcend and transmute old habits and feelings that have been lingering longer than you want, then this is what I write about here.
The power of intention & presence with our pain (during our menstrual cycle)
It seems too simple to help - to simply sit with the pain seems the opposite of helpful. Aren't we trying to not be in pain?
When we are present with what we are experiencing, we are allowing instead of analyzing or resisting. We are loosening both physical and energetic tensions surrounding our hurting womb. Trying to avoid or resist the pain only adds more tension, therefore extending the experience we want to end. It seems contradictory that sitting with it will help it move along faster.
When we resist our pain through complaining, being mad at our bodies, finding ways to numb out, trying to distract ourselves with work and other external tasks, it only comes back to bite us harder. I'm not saying to just get over it or that its easy, but try this practice:
NEXT TIME YOU FEEL A CRAMP, DISCOMFORT OR PAIN, PLACE A HAND OVER IT. ACKNOWLEDGE YOU KNOW IT'S THERE - YOU SEE IT. TRY NOT TO THINK ANYTHING OF IT, ANALYZE IT OR LEAN INTO ANY FEELINGS ABOUT IT. ALLOW EMOTIONS OR THOUGHTS TO RISE WITHOUT REPRESSION, BUT ALLOW THEM TO FLOAT BY LIKE A CLOUD OVER THE SUN.
Just sit and notice. When you don't resist, what happens?
Pain is often worsened by mental analysis, so when we quiet that down, the pain follows suit.
I can't ignore the fact that ever since I've been mote present and aware with my menstrual phase and cycle in its entirety. I've experienced less pain simply through this practice of noticing and not resisting.
Of course what I do and eat also plays into it all. But more than that, how much I rest and the thoughts and intentions I have with my body matter greatly.
When I focus on love and acceptance, my body and womb sense it and open up to receive it. Tensions are released, I am more at ease and Midol is not required.
Now I know we all have different bodies, symptoms and circumstances. I'm not claiming that mindfulness and intention is a cure for PCOS or other conditions. But I am saying that no matter what you experience, this is a layer that is essential to help you in getting through it with less pain and resistance. Less pain is the goal, an attainable one for everyone. And even if sometimes we may no reach 'no pain', we are taking steps and working our way down from the unsustainable peak of coping.
Allyship & communication with self: setting loving intentions & checking in
When I know my cycle is coming around the corner, I realize I have a choice. In this vital luteal stage approaching my bleed, I am able to direct how my cycle will go to some degree.
I can choose to dread it, worry about it or welcome it. I can choose to greet it with loathing or a warm embrace. Even if we've had a rocky past and hard times, I can choose to enter each new cycle with an open mind, a clean slate and trust in my body that it will all be okay. I can even welcome my cycle with love, focusing on the positives of how it reminds me to slow down, how it reminds me to rest, how I feel so connected and mentally spacious when I'm bleeding. How this state can be both blissful and surreal and painful and uncomfortable. And I can love and accept all of that.
THE ATTITUDE I HAVE TOWARDS MYSELF BEFORE AND DURING MY BLEEDING TIME HAS MADE A HUGE DIFFERENCE IN REDUCING THE AMOUNT OF PAIN I EXPERIENCE.
It's easy to distrust the body when we feel disconnected to it, or when things have happened to our bodies that we couldn't control. But it is in our power to reconnect, to heal, to repair, to hold ourselves with new love and understanding - to let ourselves know that we want to mend and evolve intentionally, together.
I enter my cycle with a nod to it, I tell my womb I'm here for you and that I want to experience this together in peace. We are together, not separate, and I will not fight you - instead I will listen to any pain as a sign for help.
When I feel a cramp and sit with it, usually the true reason reveals. The quicker I can listen to this plea for help, the quicker the pain subsides. Same with mental pain or discomfort.
IT'S A PRACTICE IN BODY LITERACY, AND KEEPING A RECORD OF THE SIGNS YOUR BODY TELLS YOU AND WHAT THEY MEAN IS HELPFUL.
Here's what some of my check-ins look like.
Sit and breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth. Allow thoughts to pass like clouds. Allow the answer to arise.
Don't question why you're feeling this way - sometimes there simply isn't a reason. We're not looking for a why, we're looking for a way to help ourselves move forward, not backwards.
If an answer doesn't arise, go through your needs or ask some of these questions:
do I need to drink water?
do I need to eat nourishing food?
do I need to rest? (sometimes when I'm overworking I feel cramps)
do I need to address a stressor in my life?
do I need to move my body/stretch/release tension?
do I need to breathe?
do I need to drink water or eat?
do I need a break to rest?
do I need less screen-time?
do I need to do something just for fun/enjoyment today?
do I need to go for a walk or spend time in nature?
do I need to take some alone time?
do I need a moment to breathe and clear my head?
do I need to write and release some thoughts?
do I need some calming herbs?
do I need a nap?
Sometimes all I need to do is sit and I immediately notice I'm dehydrated or haven't moved my body today - the answer pops right up. But sometimes I need to go through the lists. Once I ask myself these questions, the main action or non-action I need is usually clear.
A big key here is also not to shame ourselves for what we didn't do or did too much of. Instead, thank yourself for taking the time to notice, and move along to something you find helpful.
All in all, there is no right or wrong way to heal - what feels right for you is just that. Through presence we learn from our bodies, and if we are on a path towards transformation it is certainly a practice that can help.
Wishing all of you & yours health, healing & peace during this stressful time of uncertainty. In hopes that it all ends sooner than later~
What are some of your check-ins when you feel pain? Where are you on your path to finding presence?