Wednesday, 26 May 2010
The unbearable present
Many people present had never tried this approach to life - which is quite counter-cultural for Britain - and some helpful suggestions were offered for people who want to start.
One point made was that we have to try it for just a few minutes to begin with - we may very quickly struggle with things like pins-and-needles distracting us, or our mind being bombarded with thoughts, or we may simply be unable to sit still like that without feeling emotionally or physically uncomfortable with the situation.
The advice was to practice (in a way we individually find suitable) and persist, slowly increasing the amount of time we stay in contemplation.
We were advised to surrender to the difficult things that arise and then let them float past, allowing ourselves to be who we have been created to be, not who our hyperactive minds often tell us we must be.
Surrendering to the present moment, and persisting in spite of the surrounding thoughts and circumstances are two important principles to consider when you have a chronic illness. This is something I have learned spiritually and physically over the last few years.
We all have certain levels of long term pain that we feel we can (or can't) deal with - our memories of pain from the past can be one factor in how we respond. And sometimes it is the associated mental or emotional pain involved in living with chronic conditions that can be the hardest.
I have found that accepting the present moment, through meditation, can help me more than if I mentally fight back or try to cover over the physical pain (don't get me wrong; I do need some painkillers!).
Unfortunately in Europe and America we often have a very modern Westernised Christian approach to pain as soon as it appears - O God, please take it away! While there will always need to be some medications for serious pain, our heart's desire seems to be to rid ourselves of all painful aspects of life.
Well - in the famous opening words of M. Scott Peck's book The Road Less Travelled: "Life is difficult". Surrendering to that fact is hard, especially when the pain is really bad. But surrendering is necessary. It may make it a tiny bit easier if we believe we are surrendering to a loving creator (but not always. The individual will is strong!).
Whether we are dealing with a sudden overwhelming cough or itch in the middle of meditating, or with severe pain levels in a bad flare up of our condition, persistence is also necessary. We have to choose to continue.
My experience is that things can become totally unbearable, worsening to a point we feel we simply cannot live with. But when that moment has passed, without intervening, then a time follows fairly soon afterwards. Our spirit breathes a sigh of relief. We are still alive. We have passed through it. And if we have persisted once, then we realise the gracious possibility that we could do so again.
These are only a few words on a tough issue - I don't believe that dealing with pain involves some trite thoughts popularised as "mind over matter". On the contrary, this is just the "tip of the iceberg" of our being - our whole bodies, mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical, in all their wonderfully complex physiological detail.