Coping with Chronic Pain
One of the most memorable stories I have heard from Swamiji was about his heart condition while in Italy. When he complained of chest pain to a friend, she said simply, “Why don’t you send it some energy?” “Of course,” he thought to himself. “This is what I teach others all the time.” When he sent his heart energy, however, it felt attacked. Then he sent it love and it felt much better.
This story represents the shift in thinking that has occurred for me also. Before, in dealing with my fibromyalgia, I would rigidly repeat health affirmations, anxiously search out any negative emotions to be removed, and concentrate with firm conviction on visualizations of a physically healthy body. In anger and selfpity my ego would declare, “See, this is how hopeless it all is. I’m doing everything right with all my willpower and still I am in pain!” Fortunately, shortly before I came to Ananda, I decided to de-emphasize the disease and put just being happy first. This, my ego thought impossible, but it was too exhausted to argue with me!
While at Ananda I became happier, though with no resulting pain relief. Positive affirmations of qualities I needed in order to deal with the illness came to me spontaneously, qualities like calmness and courage. Simply watching my thoughts in meditation relaxed my muscles better than any visualization, and emotions were gently released by a kind, loving, wise mother. Alternative health therapies were easier to choose and follow through on with love as my guide, than with worry about possible outcomes.
The road to health has been different than what I had thought it would be. It has not been about exercise goals, pasted-on smiles, or finding the right pill. Though willpower and perseverance have helped, for me it has been more about letting go of what I want, in order to discover who I am becoming: compassionate, gentle, creative, and peaceful. By entrusting God with my health and happiness, I have received qualities I could not have envisioned.
Through the calm and stormy seas of my life with fibromyalgia, the polestar of this path guides me safely home; a home centered at the heart where nothing changes, love is unconditional, and attitude determines experience.
Kathleen lives in the Ananda community of Palo Alto where she gives workshops on coping with chronic illness.