pain, revisited

lilacs

This beautiful picture of lilacs may seem like a strange illustration for a post on pain. But the image is meaningful to me, because I created it Sunday afternoon before I sat down to write this. I had been sitting in my studio, flipping through magazines, trying to take my mind off the stabbing endometriosis pain in my belly. The diversion wasn’t working, though, and I kept bouncing from activity to activity, hoping to find something that would distract me.

It didn’t help that the cats kept jumping into my lap, or curling up behind the back of my head to chew on my hair. I sorted and put away a pile of books and magazines that had accumulated over the course of the past week, and decided to pull out some maps to photograph. That kept me busy for a few minutes, but then it was back to magazine reading again. I found some more images of maps in the magazine, and then I found a beautiful page of lilac photos. As I took a few snaps and processed them in Instagram and Camera+, I couldn’t help but notice that I was preferring very fuzzy, unfocused shots. They were very similar to some photos that I’d taken of flowers in my mother’s garden last weekend (below) – all hazy and dreamy. I blame the pain.

aster

rose

You know what? It sucks to hurt. Thankfully I don’t live in constant pain – but it comes and goes frequently enough for me to get seriously frustrated by the way it eats into my life – into the things that I want to do. Two weekends ago I spent most of Sunday in bed with a migraine. This past Saturday I slept for four hours around midday, trying in vain to escape from the endo torture. Pain sours my 9-5 work life, and robs me of huge chunks of productivity. I hate it.

Pain robs you of huge chunks of productivity. Is that true?
Yes.

Can you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s true?
Yes.

Give me some undeniable proof that pain robs you of huge chunks of your productive life.
When I’m in pain, it’s really hard to focus on anything else. When I’m at the office, pain slows me down. When I’m home, pain keeps me from my creative projects.

Is that true? Does pain keep you from your creative projects?
Well, when I feel pain, and it’s hard for me to focus, working on my creative projects isn’t enjoyable, so I stop.

So is it the pain that keeps you from your creative projects?
No, it’s me. I make the decision that I don’t want to create when I’m in pain, and I stop.

How do you feel when you believe the thought that pain keeps you from being creative?
Frustrated. Angry. Resentful. I wish I didn’t have to feel the pain. I want to create with a body that’s pain-free and well.

Who would you be, if you couldn’t think the thought that pain keeps you from being creative?
I would be a lot more peaceful, a lot more accepting. Just sitting here now, thinking about it, there’s a smile on my face, and I feel excited about creating.

Can you think of a stress-free reason to keep believing the thought that pain keeps you from being creative?
No.

What are some thoughts that are equally as true as the thought that pain keeps you from being creative?
Pain doesn’t keep me from being creative.
I keep myself from being creative.
I look forward to the pain, because it reminds me to do the inquiry.

And now – in this moment, as I write these very words – I am not in pain. To be honest, I’ve long suspected that it’s the stress of my reaction to my pain that makes it worse, and makes it last longer…

Is pain keeping you from anything?

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I feel really humbled when I think about how long I’ve been struggling with pain. I just went back and watched this video (below) that I recorded in March 2010. Two-and-a-half years later, not much has changed. (Except, now, hopefully, my thinking.)

Update: Sunday night. I got home about 45 minutes ago from visiting my parents, and I’ve been pain free all evening. Unbelievable.

For more information about inquiry, check out Byron Katie’s website.