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Pain as a Messenger

I’m back in Nosara, Costa Rica for another course at Nosara Yoga Institute with Don and Amba Stapleton. I was hit immediately in the first day of training with an important lesson – the body is always in the present. The mind is free to wander between the past and future, but the body is here now. In this way, the body acts as a critical messenger, and sometimes that message comes in the form of pain.

My body has sent me many messages over the years – the most dramatic of those were a heart attack, a knee surgery that involved nine months of recovery (and still flares up), and a sharp pain that travels between my left shoulder and back of my neck. Our tendency is to either avoid pain at all costs and try to mask it or treat the symptoms, or believe the adage “no pain, no gain.” However, avoiding pain completely, or pushing the body to the point where you are desensitized to pain are not sustainable reactions.

Don spoke about slowing down to allow the sensations in the body to arise, notice if the pain changes or moves, and explore whether the pain originates in a self-concept or emotional memory. Reframe the experience of pain as a messenger to restore balance in the body rather than a punishment. Many of the movements we have learned this past week have caused discomfort in my body, but I have done my best to stick with them in faith that all of the opening and releasing is exactly what I need to let go of the stress of to do lists and seeking achievement that I have been carrying. Rather than “proving” my worth via achievement, I must recognize that I am worthy just as I am. Otherwise, this pain in my neck and shoulder is not likely to subside no matter how many massages I get, or chiropractic appointments I schedule.

Over the years, I’ve come to understand the messages from my body as an indication that I need to slow down so that I can change paths in order to pursue my purpose and the things that are healthy for me. Pressing pause allows me to recognize when I am caught in a pattern of doing rather than being. Changing our habitual patterns takes time and patience, and the lesson will keep appearing until we listen. It takes the time it takes for the movement inquiry to reveal the message, and we must slow down to be able to observe and fully listen. The fact that I keep falling asleep during many of the Self Awakening Yoga flows is a good indication that my body is tired and is loving this opportunity to be still. The pain that I feel is a sign of the much needed release from the stress that I have created for myself.

Each time I return here to Nosara Yoga Institute, it seems that the content of the class is written just for me at that particular time in my life – not only what I need at the moment, but also what I am ready to hear. I’ve explored some deeply held beliefs and scars, and allowed myself to dig deeper and feel into the discomfort and pain so that I could heal. This time I must take the message to slow down - stop doing and start being – to heart and keep it with me when I return home.

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