At approximately 3:30am on Tuesday morning, I awoke in a sheer panic. My chest felt as if someone was standing on my heart, my face was going numb, and I was trembling. My initial response was, "This is terrifying; make it stop!" Then I remembered one of the most powerful mindfulness techniques: Turning towards.
I chose to look the physical pain and the scary situation directly in the face. I chose to be in it, instead of attempting to escape it. This wasn't easy; I was really scared. What helped was to see the pain and discomfort not as a solid entity, but rather, as something dynamic, something that moves and changes, something that coalesces and dissolves. I linked up with my breath, softened the fist of resistance and allowed myself to actually feel the sensations flowing and shifting in me. In that moment, I knew this was temporary. I knew this was a physical manifestion of the stressful circumstances. I knew this wasn't a medical condition that needed immediate attention (which I'm not suggesting is always the case). I knew I would be ok and I sat with the pain as it moved in my body for another 20 or 30 minutes. Then I fell asleep.
I experienced intermittent chest pains for the rest of the day yesterday. It came in waves. I turned towards it. I sat with it. I rested in the positive aspect of it, the fact that I can feel things move in me, that I can feel at all, that I can allow myself to feel. And I thought of all the people who are in pain right now and how we are all connected. Not everyone's pain is physical. Not everyone's pain is temporary. Turning towards still applies.
I love Vidyamala Burch's take on Turning Towards Difficulty and how she emphasizes that you don't just leave yourself in the place of holding pain. You also pay attention to what's pleasant. You also expand the experience beyond yourself and bring into awareness the people and the world around you. It's very beautiful.
May you meet your challenges gracefully. May you expand in your joy. May you radiate love.
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