What is your experience of pain? Where do you feel it? And how do you express it? In the past week a close friend, a yogi and very skilled yoga teacher shared her recent diagnosis of glaucoma. My son, an avid athlete and talented pianist had a second cast put on his arm post-surgery for his wrist. I learned about my cousin’s 10-year old daughter, a national level gymnast, who re-fractured her knee, and her resultant inability to bear any weight nor walk without aid. For several weeks, I have also had to manage a very painful and partially torn tendon in my arm.
We all have a different way of managing injuries, conditions and pain. Everyone’s path to health – and to healing – is different. How we deal with injuries, conditions and pain and approach the short and long-term impact on our lives varies greatly. How we grieve our losses, cope with and adapt to the new realities and norms, and handle our pain greatly differs and reflects our individual abilities to accept change. Sometimes all we need is a change of perspective.
My friend has demonstrated her usual aplomb, positive spirit and spirituality during her process of accepting her glaucoma even though it means that her yoga practice will be forever changed. Her love for inversions will remain but only in her memory. My son has managed his pain by not focusing on it, consciously choosing to redirect his focus elsewhere and without any complaint. My elderly parents with a multitude of health issues continue to push through it all with such remarkable resilience and inner strength. They have never allowed their issue to define or confine them.
Yet in spite of the inspiration from others and my general positive outlook, I have actually had a difficult time coping with my injury, the pain and the limitations from it. Even as I tried to apply the knowledge and lessons from years of yoga practice – in that it meets me where I am teaching self-acceptance and being in the present moment – it was still several weeks before I could finally make peace with my injury and see it simply for what it is. Recognizing that until I completely stopped struggling against this circumstance, I would not be free and would continue to suffer, I finally accepted this new reality and understood that it is what it is. With the right dose of positive attitude, trust and patience, I would get through it. Yet the truth is that even while trying to cultivate acceptance, the challenge remains in trying to develop patience with the recovery process! This is evident through my continual monitoring of the pain, and endless ponderings about whether it will be okay to participate in my many beloved summer activities and sports.
But I also recognize that life throws us curve balls all the time and forces us to face all kinds of challenges while coping with different sources of physical, emotional and mental pain. Years ago, I planted the seed of yoga in my life and have since watched it grow in beautiful and meaningful ways. Right in front of me I observe the continual growth of the plants, trees, grasses and flowers in our garden. Through my yoga and from nature, I have learned that nothing remains the same, even seeming to blossom in a matter of hours if not minutes. Then, something new occurs for change is ever present. This is simply the way it is. In Canada, we have four seasons, and as we accept the changes between the seasons, we try to find the best in each one.
In our personal lives we need to also develop a trust in the universe and an acceptance that everything, including our dharma or truth, happens for reasons that are far beyond our comprehension. Like the weather, our healing process is also one of change. We have to have faith in what will be and accept what is for change is truly the only constant. When confronted with personal struggles including health issues, we are challenged to cultivate acceptance, maintain a positive attitude, nurture our patience and remain open to the many lessons that can be learned through adversity or change. And it is through embracing the challenges and the process of transformation that the opportunity for personal growth arises. When I become thankful for the hard times then I know that I will change and become stronger.
“Don’t worry about a thing. Every little thing is gonna be alright.” – Bob Marley
“Embrace Change. Change is not something that we should fear. Rather, it is something that we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this word would ever grow or blossom, and no one in this world would ever move forward to become the person they’re meant to be.” – BKS Iyengar