It’s been a long time since my body has experienced true pleasure.
If it seems like years have passed since we’ve allowed ourselves to run pure joy, it may be time to shift our perspective around pain and its lover, pleasure, because we are deserving of a little more.
Before I had experienced it, I had no idea the affects of Chronic pain.
I had no concept of how it would leave me curled up in bed for days, or how it would limit my life from one of expansion to severe isolation.
The experience of Chronic pain ate away at me, gnawing at my body and mind, until there were some days when all I wanted to do was scream.
I would actually head out to my car, get inside, lock the doors and let my voice express the frustration I felt inside.
That suffering became a sneaky entity, donning sharp claws and little gnashing teeth. Those were the first few years I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia—the years where my life was a face-to-face meeting with my inability to, but incredible desire for, an escape route from the raw experiences of life.
We often shy away from sharing our true stories, but I don’t do that anymore.
To varying degrees, many of us experience pain. It is something universally felt, more than you or I will know, because, “shhhh,” suffering is still out little secret.
If we are not honest about our pain, it gets worse. Through silence we give it power. Remember that old saying of, “what we resist, persists,” well it is very true in this case.
The weird thing is, if we are quiet about the rough and jagged parts of our life, we learn to be silent about the soft and smooth ones too. In silencing our pain, we snub out our pleasure also.
I had done years of yoga, meditation and healthy living before fibromyalgia came into my life, and honestly, I was fairly peeved these practices didn’t save me from it. I took this to mean illness was my fault, and in the beginning, I compounded the suffering of it by berating myself for having it.
What I didn’t realize before chronic pain arrived, was that in this life, sometimes we need to experience suffering. The kind of suffering there may not be an immediate cure for. It eventually will shape us, hopefully into a more compassionate and wise human being.
One meditation retreat I went on during this time lasted for several days. For each of these days my body ached tremendously. My hips felt like they had screws being turned straight into them. But I got through it and I walked away from that retreat with two very precious sentences.
On the last afternoon, just before our final sit, we watched a video message from the head teacher of our lineage, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. He said this:
“Pain is not a punishment.
Pleasure is not a reward.”
We have such an eversion to pain in our society. Maybe this is so because we believe we are receiving it because we have done something wrong. Perhaps it lasts even longer because we feel like we haven’t done enough to deserve the opposite.
Trungpa spoke his direction to thousands of students, because he knew so many of us struggled with these two things. He shared this wisdom in a steady, clear voice, while rapping one of his pupils over the head with a heavy, wooden fan.
He knew, that for this one teaching, we were all in it together. I think he realized that the key to open us up to a life of greater ease was often simply, permission.
For when we can accept what is, we can have the courage to witness ourselves in whatever expression we are. To know we don’t have to fight for a better life or self and to understand that we didn’t get to pain because we were bad, allows for space to breathe and also for change.
“Pain is not a punishment. Pleasure is not a reward.”
This retreat was over a year ago and I have repeated his words many times in my head. They have helped me realize that I don’t have to cling to either of these great lovers, that I don’t have to have certain reasons to allow the experience of them and nor do I to let them go.
Since I was told that I don’t have to earn it, I let the universe regularly know, “I am ready for pleasure now!”
Author: Sarah Norrad
Editor: Caitlin Oriel
Image: Neal Fowler/Flickr