One of my primary reasons for writing and podcasting is to help others live abundantly no matter their circumstances.
Life, in general, has not been easy since successive traumatic brain injuries two years ago. So, I figure I’m in prime position to share a few tidbits regarding that whole “no matter the circumstances” business.
But I don’t want to fall into the rut of only sharing after I have learned something.
Today’s sharing comes in the midst of feeling really awful today. Yesterday was the best day I have had in months. I was nauseous only a fraction of the day and did not have to disappear into a dark room at all. I reveled in gratitude last night before going to bed. So thankful not to feel so sick.
This morning is turning out a little differently.
I feel very nauseous, out of balance, confused, and I have a screaming headache.
So, rather wait until I feel bettter to tell you what I do to fully engage with life during the hard times, I’m going to bring you along for a bit of the process.
Right now, I’m allowing myself to move through my body and feel the different physical sensations. I’m starting in my mouth, moving to my left ear, then my left cheek….all the way down to my toes, alternating between left and right as I make my way through the body.
I’m just feeling and noting sensations at this point.
Just feeling. Not trying to change anything. Just being aware.
My jaw was clenched until I paid attention to it. It instantly relaxed. I have a strong sensation of pain in my upper right eye. There is a lot of heat there. Somewhere in my throat there is tightness. In my upper chest and then back up into the back of my mouth, there is a feeling of tightness and constriction and nausea.
Most other areas in the body have what we would call neutral sensations. As I say that, I’m noticing that in the area of my chest right above the heart, there is a warmth, like the warmth of a fire on a cool day. A smile came over my face as I felt it and what I imagine to be dopamine (a soothing chemical our brain releases when we feel pleasure) released through my body.
I am already noticing a welcome change in my overall body sensations and my spirits have brightened.
The pain in my eye is still there. Headache continues to pound. The sensations that usually lead to a migraine are nestled on the top left front of my scalp.
I really don’t want a migraine. I don’t want to go down this road.
I would like to avoid all of this. I have plans for today that I don’t want to cancel.
Cortisol is now shooting into my blood stream. I feel my heart rate increasing, my jaw is clenching again, my muscles are tightening, and I’ve pretty much stopped breathing.
I do another body scan. The warmth from that area above my heart is still there.
I spend some time there. Feeling it. Feeling its warmth. Locating its specific place in the body.
Now, I’m going to allow myself to go back to that pain in my right eye. It’s callling for my attention loud and clear. Right there in the upper corner of the eye cavity in my skull. I’m imagining the exact center of the pain of the sensation. Not making it go away. Just welcoming it and imagining its center.
I feel the pain dulling. I now imagine the outer periphery of the pain. I’m asking, “Where does it end?” More dulling. The pain is still there, but it is harder to feel.
I am now going back to that warm place above my heart. It’s so good you guys. It’s the warmth of an embrace with a close friend. There is happiness and sadness in that place. Some tears are welling up. Just letting them be. Not trying to figure them out right now.
Deep sigh. Deep exhalation.
Now, I’m going back to the right eye. Feeling it. Imagining its center. Now, its periphery.
I just jumped completely out of the moment. Started thinking about how people might respond to this podcast and how I should talk about it on social media so people will know what it is.
That’s perfectly normal. Little diversion. I want to help others.
Now back to the right eye. Feeling it. A tear is running out of it.
Back to the heart. A big, deep breath spontanesouly rises and falls as I feel that place.
Now, I am going to feel both sensations – the heart and the eye – at the same time.
But before I do, I’m back to thinking about logistics of the writing and podcast. Thank you thinking mind for how much you care. You’ll get a chance to work hard.
Back to feeling both sensations. I close my eyes. Breath in and out. Breath in and out. Feeling them both at the same time.
My right eye wants more attention. Still a little bit of piercing pain.
Back to feeling both.
The pain is loosening and moving toward an imaginary center. I’m feeling it blend.
Now I’m wondering if it’s still there.
Back to they eye. It may not be completely free of pain, but it is a 3 on the pain scale instead of an 8.
My body is relaxed.
Some tightness remains.
I’m going to move into breathing.
And I’ll bring you along for that journey in another podcast.
Let me now take a moment to reflect.
First of all, I’m feeling gratitude for my body’s ability to send me messages and stabilize itself. I’m thankful that I’m not fighting pain this morning, but am able to be with it as I am with my whole self, my whole body, my whole being.
I am reminded of a quote from Richard Miller that profoundly impacted me during the early days of my traumatic brain injury:
“I am unchanging awareness in which the every-changing flow of my life arises.”
I am not my body. My body is in me.
And in this space of unchanging awareness this morning, pain and other sensations have risen and fallen.
Even in the pain, there is wholeness. There is peace. There is fulness.
If you are in pain today, I invite you to move your attention through your body, allowing yourself to feel the sensations that are present.
Be gracious to yourself if you get off track. We all do. It takes practice to train ourselves to be disciplined enough to stay on track.
As you feel those sensations, locate them in your body. No need to fix them or analyze them or think about them. Simply feel them.
It takes practice. For us westerners, we give most of our attention to our thinking minds, to cognition. We’re well-practiced analyzers.
So, close your eyes, sit in a chair with both feet on the floor or lie down. And feel. I start in the mouth and move my way down because that is how I was trained. But there is no magic way. In fact, the more you do it, the more sensing your body feels like a wave of sensing rather than just feeling individual areas.
As you feel your way to the body, allow yourself to be drawn to those areas where there is a sense of something that may need more of your attention. For me, these areas were my right eye and that area above my heart.
Feel these areas and then move back and forth between them.
If feeling some extreme pain, locate the pain and imagine the very center of that pain. Keep focusing, focusing, focusing and feeling, feeling, feeling until you get the to exact center. Then imagine its periphery.
And let me know how it goes. I’ll continue to do podcasts like this when life feels shitty so that you can walk in my shoes with me.
I hope you find it helpful.
May you have a wonder-filled day, my friends. Fully present. Fully alive.