"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Protecting Pain

"Do you know one side is a lot higher than the other?"

We were in cobra, a pose I'm relatively comfortable with, that I sort of understand at the level of focusing on appropriate muscles and maintaining breath. "This is one of the hardest poses to do correctly. It can take years to get it." Okay, so now I assume I'm still not understanding something, because there's no way I can do one of the hardest poses this easily.

But it bothers me that I start out with both shoulders even and with my elbows looking like "grasshopper wings," but I come out of the pose with one side definitely higher than the other. It's been weeks since Shawna first mentioned my lopsidededness. Every time since I've tried to check out what's going on in the mirror, even though our eyes are supposed to be aiming for the back wall.

I finally caught something this week.

My right side is the side that carries my pain. For years shame lived in and then worked her way out of my right shoulder blade area. For years my right knee would hurt when my back (and almost always something in my life) was out of alignment. And for the last year it's been my right hip, the right side of my sacrum actually, that has been delivering unrelenting messages from my body.

Because I anticipate pain from that side, even if it's not there, I protect it. I don't put as much pressure on it. And so my cobra is uneven. So is the rest of me. Because in protecting what hurts, or what I think might hurt, I've overworked the parts that do work.

The protection isn't bad in itself. The thing that's hurting me is my unconsciousness around the pain. Pain means weakness. At least it did to a number of little girls trying to survive a world that devoured vulnerability and humanity. Pain became something to endure, ignore and ultimately stuff as deeply as possible.

And that worked for years - in the way that all survival behaviors work, never allowing for much more than just survival. Fifteen years ago I began working on the psychic and emotional pain with my treasured Pat, and learned to feel and release it. That's an ongoing process.

It wasn't until seven months ago when it became clear my hip was not going to be quiet or ignored that I began to treat my body like something to be treasured rather than something to be dreaded. Pain has become a signal to pay attention to, information to act on, and very often a release of long held toxins. A friend to honor. Not an ugly thing to be crammed into the deepest recesses of my being.

Coming out of cobra I glanced in the mirror, saw my right shoulder riding high because I was putting all my weight on the left side. With a minor adjustment I discovered I could even out without pain. It changed everything about how the pose felt.

It's time to open up the windows, to look at the remaining protected places and to find out what's really there. It's time to give them the gentle attention tender parts deserve and to help them grow and strengthen in the light of love. It's time to stop protecting, and to start paying attention.

photo from Flickr


She Writes said...

Fabulous insight. So many places to go with this piece.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

"It's time to stop protecting, and to start paying attention."

I agree with Amy. I see this as a much larger essay. The idea of compensating for that pain - discussing it. You have the metaphor. Now the story. Enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

I love this (as always).

Makes me think about how my whole left side (hip, knee, ankle, foot) has been, in varying intensities, out of whack for years. And to wonder what is really going on there.

And whose wonderful little sculpture is that?

Jody Hedlund said...

Hi Deb,

What great insights you have on pain. I try not to dwell on my pains (physical or emotional) because, like you, I've seen it as a weakness. But you're so right, we then tend to overcompensate in other areas, don't we? I like the idea of giving those painful parts the attention they need. As hard as that may be, it's what will make us the healthiest.

Wanda said...

Pain is information. So glad you are paying attention.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Um, what was that about me being on the brink of a major shift?

AJ said...

Yoga, pain, unevenness, what a wonderful metaphor for life.

kario said...

Lovely, Deb. Just lovely. I love your unflinching insight and willingness to move forward.

Love you.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Oh, I know this, yes -- my right side - I'm crooked...the pain...the protective nature ... the metaphor and the reality...


Ask Me Anything said...

This piece really spoke to me. For me it's my left side.

patti said...

What a wonderful image.
What a wonderful thought.

Christ can carry all the pain, both right and left side.


Pam said...

Deb this is a very moving piece. Yoga is so good for you to do and explore, and learn from. What a wonderful tool it is to these insights you share with us. Such a privilege to watch this unfold. I carried pain for years.Twenty five years of dull and at times excrutiating bone pain that has now been discovered only recently as Vitamin D deficiency and calcium deficiency in spite of good diet. Now I'm completely pain free and balanced!Along with enjoying yoga and acknowledging emotional sources of your pain,please consider a blood test for Vitamin D, bone density and calcium levels.Wish I had sooner.Forgive my unasked for advice but I'd like to take years off others pain if I possibly could.As for emotionally, I wish you hadn't had to go through that dear one!x

K.M. Weiland said...

Interesting. My right side has always been my weak side too: bad knee, bad wrist... So often the adjustments we make to try to avoid pain end up causing us more trouble in the long run. I guess that's true in all of life, and not just the physical sphere.

Carol............. said...

Pretty interesting in how this all works..will have to delve into this a bit more.

M said...

What a powerful application to every facet of our/my lives!! Too much protection going on for too long in this old body.


patricia said...

Oh, I just love you!

Suzy said...

Your body is now flowing as your mind and writing does- beautifully.

Love you



I loved how you explained the cobra pose. And I think you're right. It takes time to perfect it.

I'm usually rushing through yoga, would you believe it. I do it to relax and then rush it. I need to slow down and breathe.

Thanks for such an insightful post. Really enjoyed reading it.
Interesting that you compensate and plan for the pain. We all do this in different ways in different areas of our lives.

Jerri said...

This is fascinating. Any ideas why the right side?

The "right" side?

The side that is random, intuitive, holistic, and subjective. The side that looks at wholes.

Hmmmmm. I wonder if that's what you protect. Only you know can know.

Your insights stun me, Deb.

Deb Shucka said...

Great question, Jerri. It was suggested to me by another Deb that the right side is the feminine, and it makes sense to me on a number of levels that that's what's being protected.

fullsoulahead.com said...

Your right side is such a wise dear friend, holding things for you 'til you are ready to let them go.

Amber said...

"The protection isn't bad in itself. The thing that's hurting me is my unconsciousness around the pain."--

I can't even tell you how deeply these word hit me right now.

You bless me.

:) (hug)