Pain is sensation.

Suffering can, sometimes, be optional.

We all experience pain. It’s part of having a nervous system. It’s a universal experience for humans. (And other mammals, and possibly other species.)

What does pain really do?

It gets our attention.

Sometimes it stops us in our tracks, like moving our hand quickly away from the hot pan or the stillness that often follows a fall as we take in what just happened.

Sometimes our response might be slower, like deciding to make a doctor’s appointment to get it checked out.

We often change course because of pain. Sometimes noticing pain may save our lives.

So what if pain is not something to push away?

What if pain simply carries a message, and the message is “pay attention”?

What if you really pay attention to your pain?

What if you notice it with your full attention?

Notice where it is. What shape is feeling pain? How deep is it? What qualities does it have: dull, sharp, radiating, throbbing, solid, shifting, strange, familiar?

Paying attention changes our relationship with pain. Instead of being “other,” it’s part of our self-experience.

I like this article by a Buddhist teacher, Belonging in the Body.

In my upcoming Self-Help for Jaw Pain online course, we will explore our own upper bodies and treat ourselves with our own hands.

What happens to me when I work with you: grounding and filling

When I do distance sessions or craniosacral therapy sessions, I start with my feet plugged into the ground. It’s like my legs and feet form a two-pronged electrical plug, and the ground is an electric outlet.

When I start a session, I am plugged in.

Unlike an electric cord receiving power through the outlet (originating from whatever generates the electricity in the first place at the dam or power plant), in my body, the current flows both ways, from the ground up into me, and from me down into the ground.

Energy from the ground flows up through my system to the crown of my head and out. I think of it as being connected to earth and heaven (as in Chinese medicine).

In the Q’ero belief system, energy flows from the ground up through the body and out the top of the head into the center of the cosmos. It also flows down, from the center of the cosmos through the body and goes to the center of the earth.

In the art of Alex Grey, the energy forms a torus around the body, flowing out of the crown and coming down in an oval or spherical shape and moving back up into the feet, up through the center of the body, out the crown, in a continual flow.

Spiritual Energy

I don’t think about images like this when I work. I’m simply aware that I’m connected to Source, or whatever you want to call it, through my body from feet to crown, because I can feel it. It has a sensation.

It permeates every cell of my body and extends outside my physical body. There’s a strong central channel along the midline of the torso and head, where the chakras are located, seen as balls of colored light in the image above.

This channel is a powerful energetic resource.

Altogether, this energy system may be known as the subtle body (although once you gain some experience with it, it’s not that subtle), or the energy body.

Some yogis talk about the body having sheaths, the densest of which is the physical body, and then the energy body, the mental body, the wisdom body, and the bliss body. I do not experience them as separate.

The energy body is not a new concept — it’s been around for a long time in various cultures. If you had been doing yoga for 30+ years, you would easily sense it in yourself too.

It doesn’t take 30 years, though. You can learn to sense it.

It responds to intent.

More on that in another post, but for now, I will just say that when I am grounded and filled, and we are sharing an intent and holding space for your brilliant cellular intelligence to optimize the places where you feel less present, free, and functional, we create a shared field in which transformation can occur.

Back from Vipassana, ready to work!

I got home from the 10-day Vipassana course (not a retreat, by the way) on August 20, and have been at work since. I’m ready for you!

I’m still integrating the experience, but for now I can say that some of the presence, focus, and equanimity I began to experience about Day 5 has remained with me. And since I returned, we’ve had an eclipse, I got an emergency brake job on my car, and a tropical storm dumped over a foot of rain at my place. Nothing has been “normal” for long. Bravo for equanimity!

There’s really nothing else like being in silence, away from books, smart phones, computers, writing, plans, and responsibilities, being fed, having a comfortable private room, walking in nature, and meditating up to 10 hours a day to cultivate presence, focus, and equanimity.

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Leaving Dhamma Siri on August 20.

The 10-day course is intended to give people with jobs, families, and responsibilities an experience of monastic life, so the rules are strict. The providers have experimented with the length of the course, learning from experience that it takes 10 full days for this kind of transformation to take place. The course I attended was at Dhamma Siri in Kaufman, Texas, southeast of Dallas, and was offered in Hindi and English, and at least half the attendees were Indian-Americans. Ages ranged from 18 to 70s. There were about 50 women and about 75 men (based on dorm capacity), but we were segregated by gender and began observing silence not long after arrival (and wow, did we chatter when allowed to on Day 10!).

People have asked me if I enjoyed the course. “Enjoyed” is not the right word since part of the experience is to get in touch with one’s own suffering.

“Benefitted” is a better word. There wasn’t a day or probably even an hour that I didn’t feel at least a little discomfort in my back or shoulders from sitting. But over time, I developed more and more equanimity.

Pain is a teacher. It gets our attention. We want it to go away — that’s aversion — or we want to feel pain-free — that’s attraction or craving. Equanimity is being neither attracted nor repelled.

It helps to think of pain as a small part of a vast range of sensation, and once you do that, it is remarkable how pain transforms into a multitude of qualities such as tingly, numb, throbbing, piercing, sharp, dull, achy, and many more descriptors. It’s also worth noting that by bringing my attention to an area feeling discomfort, I observe it changing. The boundaries change, the center changes, the intensity changes. So a lot of the learning is about paying attention to subtle sensations — a big part of my work.

I also found parallels between the Vipassana experience and the craniosacral biodynamics that I practice. I will write more about this later.