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Part I of III

Pain! Just the word alone causes me to flinch and contract, and that's what happens when we are in any type of pain be it emotional or physical. As promised, last week I mentioned I would discuss several practices that have helped me work with pain. But first....a story...

A couple years ago, I was on a silent, weeklong meditation retreat. I had sat at this retreat center before and had never had any difficulties with roommates. My luck was about to come to a screeching halt. My roommate didn't take her shoes off at the front door and consequently tracked bits of leaves, clumps of dirt and even a few scraggly twigs into our shared room. She left long strands of hair on the shower walls and left a nest of coiled hair on top of the drain. Furthermore, she would leave bits of food and toothpaste grime in the sink and, even though this was a silent retreat, she would read her kindle at night. When I went out for a walk in the woods, I heard a disconcerting banging sound only to soon come across my roommate who was banging two sticks together. She was literally inescapable, and I realized after only three days into this retreat that I might not be able to make it through the entire week.

I wrote a little note to one of the dharma teachers and asked if we could meet for a one-on-one because I was, and I wrote this, a "flight risk." He responded and said we could meet at 6:30pm. It was only around 1pm, and I had no idea how to make it until then. So, I decided in the service of self-care I would break the rule about no journaling. In the torrential stream of conscious venting that splashed itself onto the page, I realized this combustible level of anger was present because I felt I wasn't being respected. I go out of my way to pay attention to how my actions (or inactions) affect others, especially on silent retreats. This anger was asserting itself because I realized that I actually do deserve to be seen, heard and respected. Only then did I realize that this feeling of anger was actually an ally. That was a game changer!

It wasn't like anger went "Poof!" and disappeared when I made that insight, but I wasn't as constricted. There was a bit more space once I changed my attitude towards the anger. Once I stopped seeing it as a threat, and instead as a misunderstood friend, I felt just a bit more relaxed. I was definitely uncomfortable, but I was no longer bracing myself against the discomfort. Remember what Carl Jung said, "What we resist, persists."

Only when I allowed the anger to be present and gave voice to it, did I understand the intelligence wrapped up within it. The first step when working with whatever is present is to simply allow it to be there. Funny enough, I was in a card shop yesterday afternoon and saw a card that said, "It's okay. Not to be okay." Exactly my point! On Wednesday, I'll share with you the body-based meditation (helpful for physical and emotional pain) that the dharma teacher led me through, which helped me remain at the retreat for the remainder of the week.

A new poem will be posted tomorrow! Happy Monday!

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