By Vanessa Couto

(Part 1 of 2)

It’s now been a month that I have been riding the dragon of initiation and getting acquainted with the wisdom of pain.

It all started on Christmas morning, when I work up with a kind of pain that was acute, urgent and led me to tears. My lower back had been hurting and uncomfortable since June, with periods of so much intense pain, that all I could do was stay on the floor. I tried various treatments and things seemed to be improving.

But the pain that I woke up to on Christmas morning was of a different caliber!

It cut through my right leg as if a sharp knife was cutting me from upper thigh all the way down to my foot. At other times, it was a mixture of being cut open while being burned. It felt as if  Zeus’ very own lightening rod was zapping me down the right leg. It was so electric, that I thought I smelled burnt skin in the air.

This resulted in a trip to the ER, painkillers that did nothing for me, and more medication that finally helped the acute attacks of pain subside. This all culminating with the MRI that revealed a herniated disc (L4-L5). As I write, I’m still awaiting physical therapy and a meeting with the neurosurgeon.

The truth is that this past month I’ve been getting an education on pain wisdom, or as I like to think of it: dragon initiation.

I’ve experienced varying degrees of pain, but I’ve never had it at such level, coming from my very core and cutting and burning through me. It made me feel that I was having a dark night of the soul, while also on the edge of losing my sanity. As a friend said,

a sciatica flare up is mind-bending.

I’m very grateful for my husband for taking care me, for the medical system; despite its flaws (and they are many) offering me what’s possible within their understanding–for friends who have visited bringing goodies and spending time with me. Gosh, I had no idea how much I missed that human contact of a visit! It helped me take my mind away from the pain and lifted my spirits. So grateful. Love me some guests to bring me inspiration and share their stories.

Grateful too for CBD products that helped take the edge off the pain, unlike the traditional prescribed medications. It helped dull that sharp knife of pain just enough to help me stay sane.

For me it’s vital to find the nugget of wisdom in life’s experiences.

I just can’t dismiss something as ‘life happens’ and let it go. I’ll do the archaeological exploration to see what’s playing out. An outer event in life can also be taken as a dream (who’s dreaming who?), and as such we can play with the experience and see what is revealed.

So here are some insights, ideas in draft form really, from this experience I’m journeying through:

  • Company matters – friends, conversations–these make a huge impact on one’s state of mind. It helps navigate the journey of pain with more sanity. It lifts one’s spirit and as such helps the body do the healing it is here to do. It doesn’t take much.A check-in via text. A call. A visit. It all counts and helps immensely.
  • Health Education – We have to be very educated about health to navigate the system. Western Medicine needs a makeover. I felt that I had given my own diagnosis. Once I told the doctor at the ER about what I thought I had, she said, “yes”; and that was that. Barely an examination! We have to really go in with our questions at the ready and leave no stone unturned.
  • Perspective – nothing like the sharpness of pain to let you know where you no longer have bandwidth available. Things get pulled in to the core – the inner circle. With that, you realize that certain things are no longer necessary in your life. It’s a good time to let it go. That’s what I’m working on for myself. Clarifying what needs to be released, let go, or allowed stay.Pain cuts through the bullshit; allowing you to see what is really still alive in your life and deserves tending. All else falls by the wayside. It’s a stripping down to the core.
  • Vulnerability – Wow, that’s the edgier one. To ask for help, to ask for care, to ask for company. To realize that you have to delegate and let go of control. Through the pain I saw its twin brother – anger. Both bring in such focus – literally the fire at the core of the hearth of everything.
  • Anger and its younger sibling Frustration – In the beginning, I felt immense anger towards this electric pain down my leg, making me feel raw, cut open and burnt. It was hard to receive this unannounced guest with stoic diplomacy. I felt deeply angry at what it was bringing up, how it was making me feel, and how it was paralyzing the run of my life.Behind the anger and frustration resides a resistance to the surrendering. Instead I gritted my teeth. But pain is here shaking one to the core so that one can surrender to the death of one’s ego and control. It’s here we release our grip from the control program.
  • Presence – pain brings you to the here-and-now. At best there’s the near future where you hope that pain will release its grip on you or even leave. Things are slowed down, because you are constrained in your mobility and ability to carry anything extra other than the bare essentials. Your mind just doesn’t have bandwidth for much more than the here and now.
  • The Veil – at the worst of the pain, I could feel that the veil between this world and the Otherworld was thinner. Unfortunately, I couldn’t look away from the focus of my pain to reach over to the Otherside and see what I would be able to learn/see/encounter. It was at these moments that I felt that there was another level to this experience. On one level, it’s your basic herniated disc hitting the nerve and causing all the pain. With treatment all will be aligned again. But I also felt that pain is an initiation into a different level of one’s psyche. The pain to me was akin to a shamanic journey, riding me and making me focus on the here-and-now.

To be continued…..