One of the things that has really worked for me in learning to live well with pain is cultivating presence. Presence can be in any form, stillness, inner peace, silence, a sense of joy, courage, compassion, loving kindness, it manifests according to what is needed in the moment.
The reality of living with pain is that it is really really difficult to be in presence when I am in in pain. I need to practice my presence cultivation when I’m NOT in pain. This presence cultivation, for me anyways, has always taken the form of mindfulness meditation, my practice has been about cultivating stillness and silence. I need to do this every single day at some point in the day when I am not in pain……even for a few minutes. The fact is in doing this presence practice it all adds up. Presence builds up into a sort of reserviour of presence which is available for me to draw on when things get tough.
If I don’t practice presence, practice taking time out to rest and be with silence, stillness and the depth of life, when the pain hits, then I have way less capacity to be with presence . I just get stuck in pain being the center of me, rather than presence. There is nothing to hold the pain, and its real, real tough in this place.
This morning as I sat in silence a chainsaw was going next door. That chainsaw is a bit like pain….its so darn noisy, and consumes awareness. Yet when I truly just let it be there, and moment by moment reorient my attention and awareness to the silence beneath that chainsaw, I can actually still rest in silence. Stillness can hold the chainsaw noise. I am not consumed by it, distracted by it, and swept up in it.
Same with pain. But the fact is it requires practice. Little by little, presence grows, like a muscle building from exercise. When we practice being present to presence as stillness, peace and silence, like a vast ocean of peace, this ocean becomes more and more familiar to us. It becomes more real, more substancial.
There is no other way to cultivate presence. It doesn’t happen on its own, but through our own training and practice.
Each day we are free from pain, take some time to practice presence.
Sit down in silence and simply breath. With each in and out breath Imagine a deep and beautiful calm blue, green ocean. Imagine that you are held in this ocean, let this ocean bathe you with its goodness, its silence, its stillness. Let it run through you. Let yourself feel yourself as this ocean. As your attention wanders, just bring yourself back to this sense of being the ocean, of being calmed and soothed by its vast and huge presence. As you breath, keep returning your attention to this ocean. Rest in it, deepen in it, let the ocean become you, and you become the ocean.
Each time your attention wanders, return like a gentle wave to the sense of calm, deep, still, peaceful ocean.
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