Accepting physical pain is an experience I am familiar with due to a chronic and debilitating illness. It is not easy to accept my pain, but through meditation and self-compassion, I am finding a way. I am also using the experience as an opportunity to befriend the parts of myself that I don’t like. I have noticed that I ignore and reject those parts when my mind is left unattended.
We all have parts of ourselves we wish were different; they could be personality traits, emotional patterns or reactions, physical ailments, or particular sensations. Thankfully, these parts do not make up the totality of who we are. Through nonjudgmental awareness and self-compassion, the suffering we create by identifying with these parts as a solid Self can be relieved.
In an effort to reclaim wholeness, I am learning to hold the painful parts of myself with loving kindness. This process is empowering by offering a choice in how I relate to suffering. I recognize that my “sick” self is only part of my totality. When I reject it, I feel fragmented and lose my sense of wholeness. When I soften and welcome the “sick” part, my experience shifts. I feel more aligned with the truth of selflessness and empowered through greater connection with awareness.
This is easier said than done! The practice outlined below has helped me ease the suffering of pain, rejection, and resistance, and helps me relax. I think you will notice the effects immediately if you try it. But if you don’t, assess where there is unacknowledged resistance and then reengage the practice.
Over time, compassionate understanding will grow, and welcoming the disenfranchised parts of ourselves with loving kindness will become easier. As mind softens, letting go happens naturally, which eases pain and suffering on the spot. I hope this will be as helpful for you as it has been for me!
- Find a quiet, comfortable place. Begin mindfully tracking the breath.
- After a few minutes, draw you attention to the place in the body where pain or emotional discomfort is felt most strongly.
- Soften the location in the body without forcing it. You can say “soften . . . soften . . . soften” to enhance the process.
- Allow any discomfort to be there. Abandon any wish for it to disappear. Let discomfort come and go. Try repeating “allow . . . allow . . .allow.”
- Invite love into and for yourself for suffering in this way. Place your hand over your heart and breath. You may also invite love to the part of the body in distress (emotionally or physically). Repeat to yourself “love . . . love . . . love.”
- “Soften, allow, love.” Use these words like a mantra, and invite tenderness toward your suffering.
- If you experience too much suffering, return to mindfulness of the breath until you are ready to begin again. Appreciate yourself for doing this work.