Peace or Pain – The Unbroken You
I was surprised when I first heard that there was a choice between peace and pain at any given moment. I had been living with chronic pain for decades, and so this was news to me and, at first, was completely unbelievable. However, the person who suggested this possibility clearly had an understanding and experience of pain far beyond mine. I was also a little curious, so I decided to stay open to this idea and explore what was actually possible.
I already had some experience with a tens machine, so I understood the concept of pain being a signal to the brain. When the device was strapped directly over the painful area of my body, the signal to the brain was interrupted, and the pain ceased for a while. Of course, it only worked when it was operating; the rest of the time, the pain returned and I suffered once more.
I also had a surprising experience playing a buffalo drum that I had bought after attending a Shamanic workshop. I found playing it soothing and relaxing. After a while, however, my arm started to ache (the drum was twenty-two inches and quite heavy), so I shifted position and turned the drum toward myself. Instantly waves of vibration washed over me, and the pain vanished. In place of the pain, I experienced a pleasant and soothing sensation that felt divine.
In both instances, the pain relief required some activity. You can’t drum all day; after a while, the tens machine started aggravating my skin. I was therefore keen to explore other options that could be more sustainable.
The Possibility of a Choice
I knew already that meditation techniques could have a profound impact on our health and levels of stress. I had read studies showing that meditation practices that utilised attention and focus could change our state of mind and be very useful in pain management and pain relief. I wanted a tool like that, and I wanted those kinds of results!
My desire for an effective meditation practice lead me to enroll on a retreat with the Bright Path Ishayas. It was here that I first heard about the possibility of a choice between peace and pain. The course taught a meditation practice known as Ascension. Despite having some similarities to mindfulness meditation, Ascension goes much deeper.
“Once you start approaching your body with curiosity rather than with fear, everything shifts. ” - Bessel A. van der Kolk
Pain Strikes Again
Initially, I was able to engage in the daily programme of activities with a very low level of pain. Then one day, I woke up with a flare-up of my pelvic condition. It was now not only difficult but also painful to walk. I was devastated but carried on regardless. What else could I do?
There I was, standing at the bottom of a long winding path up the hillside of the retreat centre, and it looked longer and steeper than usual. I took a deep breath and started walking slowly up the path. It was hard work and very painful. I became fatigued quite quickly and struggled to keep going. Stubborn determination arose within me, and I kept ploughing onward and upward, trying to ignore the pain.
I eventually made it to the top, declining all offers of help on the way. I sat down on a low wall near the top of the path and cried in absolute devastation and despair. I thought I was past this high level of pain and disability, and the flare-up had shaken me to the core. I just couldn’t go through this again. Thoughts were swirling around in my head. Thoughts of how I would cope getting around the retreat centre; how long the flare-up would last. Maybe I would have to leave? Is this just the life I would have to live forever? I was angry and frustrated and did not want to go through this again.
You Always have a Choice between Peace or Pain
Then out of the blue, another thought flowed through my mind. A memory of what one of the Ascension teachers had spoken about a few days before this flare-up: “You always have a choice between peace or pain”. This halted all other thoughts, and I just sat in silence for a moment. Then I found myself vehemently declaring, “Well, if there is a choice … I choose peace!” It was an immense declaration that I felt in every cell of my body and all that remained was peace: endless, all-encompassing peace. All thoughts vanished.
I stood up with ease and grace, and calmly walked into the meeting room, sat down and closed my eyes. What followed was a beautiful, seamless, profound, gentle, serene and deep experience of peace. It was also a stable experience that remained with me for several hours. Then it ebbed and flowed as I danced between peace and pain. Eventually, the pain kicked in again, and I struggled once more.
This time though, I had the memory of my experience to fortify me when things felt difficult and frustrating. My approach changed, and the world opened up to support me. Offers of help flooded in from every direction. The support I received was beyond anything I could have imagined—a support belt, a walking stick, healing, a massage. The biggest surprise of all was an offer of help from a physiotherapist who had, a few months previously, completed a course in the exact condition I had. I was shown how to walk more easily and efficiently with the walking stick and given regular treatments with exercises to increase my core strength without compromising my body.
If I didn’t believe in miracles before … I did now!
“Deep down within the heart there is a stillness which is healing, a trust in the universal laws which is unwavering, and a strength which is rock-like. But because it is so deep we need both patience and perseverance when digging for it. ” - Paul Brunton
The Still Silent Space Within
My journey of exploring the choice between peace and pain was just beginning, and it didn’t end with my physical body. My relationship with my thoughts, emotions, sound, other people and more changed and continued to change. Day by day, week by week, everything changed for the better, not because I was trying to change anything, but because I became more and more aware of the still silent space of pure unadulterated peace inside.
This is the unbroken you, the real you, the still silent self. When you become aware of and attentive to this stillness, this silence, this space of peace and unconditional love, your conscious awareness of it expands to become more familiar and more stable. This is the foundation for healing. When you are in touch with this part of you, all you need comes to you. No more searching; no more trying to heal or fix your body, tame your emotions or stop your thoughts.
I discovered that everything I had learnt in life so far was back to front. I had been trying to get to peace, heal myself and make life better. When all along peace was available now, all I had to do was pay attention, and the rest was taken care of. Peace became apparent, and life was easier, more gentle and much more enjoyable.
Peace or pain is a choice; all you have to do is learn how to make it.