Unbeknownst to my massage therapist, I'm learning something really deep from him.
First, let me say, my interest in massage is entirely hedonistic. I like the way it feels and it doesn't hurt that it's being done by a fetching hunk of man. I always thought the idea of "releasing toxins" was BS. But a few weeks ago I was sick as a dog all weekend following a massage. It was like the flu, but not the flu.
But that's not the deep thing I learned. The deep thing I learned is that, when I'm on the massage table and he comes across a tense muscle, and it is painful, I place my attention on the spot, and do my best to let go into his pressure, so he can break up the tension and "release the toxins."
However, until recently, in the rest of my life, when I came across pain, I tended to tense up more around the painful spot and put my attention elsewhere, disregarding the tension and toxins building up. Thinking the pain will just pass if I distract myself enough.
In the past six months or so, I have had a lot of pain, seemingly coming from multiple directions. Some of these pains were fresh, but some were vintage ones coming up for air. So I've been trying to breathe into the pain, allowing the pressure to break up and dissipate.
I'm not going to lie and tell you that I'm more joyous than ever. Right now I'm struggling under the weight of accepting and divesting of the things bringing me pain in my life. It has been one the darkest periods of my life and some of the people I thought would be there to support me were not. One who I was very close to chose to kick me when I was down, in fact, despite having full knowledge of the crisis I was in at that moment.
So it has been an ugly and heartbreaking and illuminating time. It has been illuminating, in part, because it has shone a light on who is really there for me. I have to say I am blessed with some very wise woman friends and an adequate support network. But it has also shone a light on who is in my life out of love, who is not, and whose issues are such that they keep them from feeling entirely.
When you tense up around pain long enough and completely enough, you can just stop feeling. Or desensitize yourself so much that it takes something huge to register. I won't say I ever quite got that far myself, but I know some who have. Which is why I finally started feeling my pain instead of putting it off. I didn't want to be one of those who were unable to feel for others because they were too busy holding their own feelings at bay.
So I won't lie and tell you that it is easy or that I'm happier than ever. Just as with the massage, I had physical symptoms from the release of toxins, but lasting for weeks, instead of just a weekend. I do find myself healing things within me, though. And I find myself dealing with some of the fears that came along with all of this. And, whenever the deluge stops from the dam I broke, I think I will be much happier and more sure of myself. I know I've already made powerful changes in my life. And I also know that I'm seeing through a lot of people and situations that do not serve in my life. I'm seeing more clearly.
It's true that there is no growth without discomfort. In fact, discomfort is probably the most valuable tool in your spiritual armory. If you're having a hard time forgiving, you'll have to go someplace uncomfortable to get over the hump. If you're having a hard time letting go, you'll have to inconvenience yourself some to make it happen. If you're having difficulty trusting, you'll have to go into some scary places in order to learn. We have to stretch to grow.
So I've been choosing discomfort and I have been in some scary, dark places because of it. I can talk about this now because I'm pretty sure I've made it through the worst of it, with the help of a few confidantes. And because acknowledging demons seems to work better than ignoring them. And also because, while it doesn't quite feel this way now, I trust I will emerge stronger, better and closer to my spiritual goals. I always do.
There is a lot of fear and pain coming up for people lately. Acknowledging it is not the same as working through it. Neither is pretending it doesn't exist. When you step out of the noise and denial of your anger and, instead, explore the fear and pain behind it objectively—when you interview it and learn to understand it—you can gain the kind of clarity you need to rise above it and respond more effectively in the face of it.
For those who are committed to stretching and growing—and feeling uncomfortable—times of pain and tumult come to test us. They come to poke us to see if we've gotten too comfortable. Sometimes we need to feel safe inside our patterns, so we look away. And sometimes we need to reach for a greater source of safety, so we look within. I'm choosing the latter right now, and when the pain comes, I'm learning to place my attention on it and breathe into it.