Twenty years ago I was tormented by constant headaches. These headaches would last for days and were seemingly resistant to anything I tried to be rid of them. They became a constant companion of my every day, they were a torment of continually sleepless nights.
I gave up on OTC medicine to lessen the pounding in my head and just plowed through my work, trying to push them out of my awareness. It never worked but there was always hope in trying.
A friend shared with me a book that held on one page, in one sentence, through one word the key that begin my journey to a headache free. Surrender. Surrender to the pain. Accept it. Welcome it.
The natural thing for the body to do is to fight it. Instead welcome it.
So I did. And the headaches immediately lessened in intensity. I was elated and curious.
Why? Why did such a simple change in attitude make such a dramatic change on my physical pain?
Shortly after, a friend of the community visited. In the conversation I mentioned something about what I was noticing and she said she suffered from headaches herself. She told me that instead of welcoming them to get rid of them, I should be welcoming them and enter into the space of the welcoming, into the enlarging of my heart that was surrendering and accepting.
Armed with this suggestion I went about figuring out how I was supposed to do this. My heart. I had spent so much time focusing on my headaches, that befriending my heart was a foreign concept.
That night I sat up in my room, sleepless as usual. My heart. I know I am feeling something. In my heart. I don’t feel anything. For several hours I sat in the silent darkness trying to become aware of what I felt. Trying to feel my feelings that somehow were related to the gradually dulling ache in my head.
Each night I took the journey out of my head into my body where the tight and taut muscles mirrored the tightness of the headaches, or perhaps they created the headaches. Who knows. Gradually, as I explored the physical sensations of tension, I found my way to my heart.
It too was tight, but in a different way. During those endlessly sleepless nights, I sat at the door of my heart and learned to feel its pain and to describe it with different words. Closed. Defended. Guarded. Shrouded. Withdrawn.
In this odyssey through the sensations of my physicality which brought me to the door of my heart, my headaches lessened until eventually they ceased altogether.
There at heart’s door I learned that I couldn’t pry open the door as I had tried to rid myself of the headaches. I couldn’t demand. It worked on no timetable of mine. The heart responds not to aggression or fearful pleas.
I had to wait.
Welcome its pain. Its fearful closing in on itself. Till it knew it was safe to trust me with its deepest sorrows and its even deeper treasures.
Can you stay with your heart’s deepest pain? Can you sit with some physical pain and ask it for its story? Take a deep breath, feel the way you are held by gravity and by the even deeper Abyss of God’s embrace. Say quietly: I am here. I am yours. I am waiting on you. I will wait always and forever. Come.