Showing Up For Pain – And Sitting With It.

She taps the bowl again, and I feel it resonate along three chakra points in my body. I am blown away by this whole experience. I don’t really know what’s happening, but I feel it happening and I can hear the difference in the singing bowls as she taps again and moves along – taps to two or three more bowls and it feels like tectonic plates of energy are shifting into place. It’s so subtle that I almost miss it, the sensation drowned out by the sounds of the bowls encompassing all of my senses. The contrast of epic shifting in the most gentle and subtle ways has me absolutely geeking out. I want to know everything that’s going on, but I keep reminding myself to be present, receive the healing, keep breathing. Stop trying to understand. Lean in to the discomfort when the sounds overwhelm me, like a wave pulling me under. Breathe through it and listen as she returns to the bowl that has now become my favorite sound – it calms and grounds me as my energy adjusts to match the vibrations.

Singing Bowl

Before I know it, the bowls are silent, there’s relaxing music coming softly through a speaker (not that I hear it in my state), and I’m in a new stage of sensory exploration. I don’t get massages often because I find that when it gets painful, I tense up, which is counterproductive to the whole point of getting a massage. However, the sound healing portion of this session has not only adjusted the vibration of my chakras, but has helped to prepare my body for the massage – like a handy side effect. I feel relaxed and ready. Not long into the massage I have a pretty epic realization. You can’t hide ANYTHING from a massage therapist.

I purposely seek healers who will call me out on my shit and push me to go to the uncomfortable places and explore the scary stuff and do the hard things. I never expected to find that in a massage, though. 

She finds a knot that I had no idea was even there. I had already been making my next appointment in my head, but quickly draw myself back into the present – not only do I need to show up for this part, I need to stay in the room. My nerdy healer self is super stoked about this fact, even as the rest of me dreads what’s about to happen.

Energy healers and massage therapists. They will find it, and they will work at it and push you until you think you can’t take any more. At which point you have two choices. Tense up and back away, or will your muscles to relax, lean into the pain, breathe deeply and let the healing in. It is so uncomfortable, sometimes desperately so. I begin with reminding myself to breathe. I explore the pain – try to analyze it objectively. This is a practice I use when getting tattoos. It helps to separate you from the experience of physical pain and allows you to become the observer in the moment. The only difference is, this time there’s strong emotion involved. Whatever is tied up in this knot she’s working on, it’s deep, it’s emotional, and trying to observe it objectively is like trying to concentrate on staying dry in the middle of an ocean storm… in a kayak. I soon realize that my observer practice, in this instance, is my way of emotionally backing away. I can’t observe this objectively, I’m not supposed to. I double down with my breathing, consciously keep myself from tensing up, and ride it out. When I’m about to capsize, tipping over the edge of surrender – I feel the knot give way and she’s quickly smoothing out the muscle, firmly massaging away any trace of pain. Like a plug being pulled from a drain, the pressure is released and I exhale.

Holy. Hell.

Photo by Emiliano Arano

There’s a part of me inside doing a victory dance shouting about how awesome that was and overwhelmingly grateful for the experience… And there’s a tattered and exhausted part of me watching, just totally appalled at the dancing me because that was THE WORST!! 

When I work with clients, I encounter two common reactions to uncomfortable issues that come up. I get the back pedaling – “oh, it’s not that bad, I know I choose to react this way, it’s just the way it is and I can’t change it/them”. While it’s true that you can’t change other people or place expectations on them to change or grow according to your wishes – you can change how you interact and react with them. When my clients begin to back pedal out of the room of discomfort, it is usually because they don’t want to look in the mirror and go to those painful hidden places within themselves and see their own shadows. The fear is visceral.

On the flip side, I get those who are ready to dig in. My heart swells when my clients who have worked with me for years bring me “this is a pattern of mine, I repeatedly do this and react this way, I need to work on this”. When you do this work, when you strive for personal growth and evolution, it’s not enough to simply show up and expect the healing to be done for you. You need to stay in the room when it gets painful or uncomfortable, and it will get painful and uncomfortable. An hour or two of healing, no matter the modality, is just an energy booster along the path of you doing the work. By staying in the room with the pain and discomfort, you allow it to process, allow layers of stuckness and harmful beliefs to release. 

Acknowledgement and courage are two necessary elements for personal growth. Acknowledging the pain/shame/guilt/fear and sitting with it, courageously observing and listening. There’s inevitably that moment, where it is all too much, and there’s nothing left but surrender – and then you do. And dawning understanding massages the pain away, and you realize you have survived another unbearable moment. And you are stronger than you were before that moment. And these moments, whether they last minutes, months, or even years – are the best and the worst, and always contributing to creating the person you are meant to be.

Many blessings, my friends.

? Patti

A note about depression: Just to be clear, in this post I am speaking about pain and discomfort that is a general part of life. The experiences and life lessons that mold us into who we are, that make us stronger for each time we get back up after we fall. I am not talking about clinical depression, anxiety, or trauma. If you are experiencing physical or emotional pain that requires medical attention – please seek help from a professional. You don’t need to do this alone.