Monday, July 1, 2013

When Pain Is the Teacher, What Is the Lesson?

"I'm sorry, pain is a part of life, and those who can tolerate, understand and eventually come to terms with pain are the ones who live above the rest.  Life is simple but not easy."
                                           ~Mastin Kipp, The Daily Love

As I sat before a blank computer screen trying to figure out how to share my latest insights about coping with health challenges -- without it seeming like an "organ recital" -- a childhood memory bubbled up and resolved the issue.

Whenever we were visiting my maternal grandmother, the moment always came when my folks asked the inevitable question, "How are you doing?"  Now, I loved my grandmother dearly, but I dreaded her response, full of bad news and dire predictions about what it all meant.  And she looked so defeated and shamed by the admissions.  By the time we left for home, a pall hung over us, broken only when my father stopped at a local dairy that sold ice-cream cones.  Then everyone's spirits lifted and life was good again, at least it was in my child's mind.

That memory dovetailed with my recent onslaught of diverse maladies, a lot of accompanying pain and the desire to learn how to cope in a way that was more uplifting, positive and proactive than in the past.  My desire was heightened by the shock of having entered the ranks of those "poor souls" who always seem to be suffering some ailment or injury.

I felt ashamed and guilty and wondered what I had done or not done to set this sad situation in motion.  My friends jokingly suggested that my ever-lengthening list of ailments reminded them of the Bible's long-suffering Job.  I didn't really believe I was having a Biblical experience, but I did think that maybe I could be "on my way out," or simply having a heightened awareness of my body breaking down.  Neither was desirable.

Fortunately, my history reminded me that for more than a decade, I had been committed to growing through life instead of just going through it.  I needed to stop my negative thinking and get back on track.  I knew there was something positive to learn, and I knew that whatever it was would help me and hopefully many others.

Just to be clear -- dealing with my health challenges was not easy.  My problems were, and some still are, painful and potentially serious.  They began with a broken foot, then shingles that segued into post herpetic neuralgia, which is a painful and excruciating aftermath of shingles that 1 out of 10 people fall heir to.  After that as soon as one malady subsided a new one popped up.  I won't repeat the full list because I don't want to "own" these ailments I want to move beyond them--and especially the latest one, infrequent episodes of double vision.

This really hit me hard.  I'm a writer and my eyes are an integral asset for that pursuit.  I had decided years ago that as long as I could get to my computer each day and continue sharing what I learned with others - my life's purpose - I would be a happy camper.  This new malady was the last straw, and the energy within me increased exponentially.  I was now laser-focused on discovering the insights I was to learn from this entire series of unfortunate events.

With that as my intention, I recalled what one of my mentors, the late Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, taught me: "Everything that happens on Earth is for a reason; nothing happens by chance."  She was the world expert on death and dying, and also considered one of the most brilliant women of this or any other century.

Holding that truism to me, I went within and asked my usual question: What am I to learn from this situation?  Once again my inner guidance was there prompting me along my way.  I recalled reading psychologist and bestselling author M. Scott Peck's book titled "The Road Less Traveled" many years ago.  I refreshed my memory with a brief look back at it and was bowled over by his initial statement that "Life is difficult."

Peck went on to explain that when we can't accept the truth that life is difficult, and we keep thinking life should be easy--that's what makes it difficult.  It seems, and it makes perfect sense to me now, that we're here to be challenged by life and what we don't want in our lives is actually the motivator that is meant to push us to evolve into a higher conscious awareness.

The realization that I was living the process of coping with such painful challenges brought me to the following insight.  With each succeeding health condition, I moved more quickly through the moaning and bemoaning (snit fit), met with an appropriate healthcare specialist, made a decision as to what to do - and then moved forward.  In short, I had to stop whining, do something positive about the situation and get on with my life.

"Getting on with it" meant that I was to face each new condition squarely and to hold fast to my heart and soul desire to continue enjoying the best quality of life possible as long as I still breathed.  That realization helped me to accept what is, the key - as Eckhart Tolle says - to positively moving beyond whatever undesirable situation comes up in life.  I was then more able to be grateful for the gift of life, which enhances my self-esteem.  In other words, by choosing not to die until I was dead, I reclaimed my power and went from being a victim to being a victor.

By turning within, fully embracing the process and asking for guidance - and acting on it - I recognized that challenges of any and all types and sizes are to push us to grow through them, increase our conscious awareness and strengthen our spiritual muscles.

I also learned that God's plan isn't for us to accept discomfort, disorder and pain in our bodies and lives as the price exacted for the gift of life.  The plan is for us to consciously increase our positive sense of self so we can overcome the fear of going within and uniting with the unconditional love, infinite wisdom and guidance that is our birthright.  As we do that, we can cope with, and rise above any adverse condition or situation that comes into our lives.

                    "Challenges are what make life interesting
           and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful."
                                                      ~Joshua J. Marine
Copyright 2013 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author's books: "Becoming a Spiritual Warrior of the Heart" (2013), "Tea with Elisabeth," (recipient of the 2010 Silver Award for Non-fiction), "You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World" (Nov. 2008), and "The Heart Knows the Way--How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within" (Feb. 2008), are available at and other online booksellers, as well as bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.