While walking on the treadmill this morning, I felt a sudden, sharp pain in my right hip. I gasped and turned my attention toward the pain, while continuing to walk. I shifted my weight on the treadmill, dropped my arms to my side instead of holding the heart-rate grips, and “experimented” with different ways of walking to determine whether the pain would increase, decrease, or subside. When it went away, I continued walking, this time with more awareness of my movements.
That brief moment of pain, assessment, and adjustment got me thinking about the importance of pain. Whether it’s physical or emotional pain, the body or mind is giving us a signal to pay attention by saying, “Something isn’t right here.” It’s an invitation to be more mindfully aware of the moment. Once we’re aware, we can assess the situation (with curiosity, not with panic!), and then choose to make an adjustment (or not).
When it comes to emotional pain, it’s the adjustment part that I struggle with. I can feel painful emotions and assess where they may be coming from, but I don’t always choose to make an adjustment. Sometimes I choose just to keep doing the same things that are likely causing the pain to begin with. In my post last week, I shared that my fear of gaining weight had resurfaced and that I was re-engaging in behaviors that perpetuate that fear. Until that point in time, I knew there was pain, I had assessed it, and I was choosing to not make any adjustments.
Soon after I wrote that post, however, I felt ready to make changes. I went home and decided not to write down all the foods I had eaten that day (which had been perpetuating my obsession over calories). The next day at the gym I decided not to weigh myself, telling myself that weighing in once a week is enough. I allowed myself to feel angry on Sunday instead of stuffing down my anger with food. And, more importantly, I communicated my feelings to someone with whom I had been previously “putting on a happy face”. All of these adjustments have decreased my emotional pain to the point where I feel calm and centered again.
What emotional pain exists in your life right now? Could you take some time to calmly assess the source of the pain and experiment with possible adjustments to your routine to decrease that pain? Pain is important. It has something to teach us; we just have to take the time to listen and respond.
Peace, joy, and health,