Embrace the Pain, with Kindness

I woke up with a migraine on Saturday morning. This happens about once a month or so. Headaches have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. In the past several years since I’ve been seeing a chiropractor regularly they’re much less frequent, and I’m so grateful for that, but sometimes they happen and Saturday was one of those times.

When my husband is home we have a routine where he brings me meds, closes the door and keeps the house quiet. This Saturday morning he wasn’t home; so I got myself some meds, fed some chatty kittens and laid back down in a dark room.

Almost an hour went by and the pain hadn’t dissipated much. I could tell that my body was tense but wasn’t able to release it on my own; so I decided to grab my phone and look for a headache meditation on one of the meditation apps I use. I found one. It was beautifully guided and began by encouraging me to locate the pain and embrace it.

And then it hit me. I’d spent all my effort up to that point trying to fight the pain. There’s a dance I do with pain where I first try to ignore it so I don’t have to take meds. When that’s not possible anymore I’m frustrated and tense and want instant relief. I go from ignoring it to fighting it, never once trying to embrace it.

Not surprisingly, I do the same dance with emotional pain. Maybe you do, too. When I’m trying to ignore it, being super ‘busy’ is my go to. After all, if you’re constantly in motion there’s no time to think. When I finally get to the point of facing it, the desire for instant relief is strong.

The headache meditation that encouraged me to embrace the pain ended with a version of one of my favorite Buddhist loving-kindness (metta) prayers: “May you be happy; may you be healthy; may you be filled with deep compassion; and may you be at peace.”

Embracing the pain with kindness is how you allow the pain to move through you. The dance of ignoring and frustration only increases the pain. Embracing might not erase the pain but it will eliminate the struggle that so often compounds our pain.

May you be happy; may you be healthy; may you be filled with deep compassion; and may you be at peace.

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