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what pain’s been teaching me

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Today’s the 10th day of this pain–still waiting for a neurosurgeon’s consult following a CT scan done four days ago. The narcotic pain reliever Hydromorphone barely makes a dent. Sometimes it takes me five minutes to cover 12 steps upstairs as I moan, scream, swear, weep, and laugh out loud from time to time. 

I mention this to contextualize an amazing discovery: that calmness may reside at the core of excruciating discomfort. By acknowledging my helplessness I’m able to experience equanimity [from Latin aequanimitas, with even mind].    

This afternoon, a coworker brought a bowl of split-pea soup and a caffè latte super grande. When she offered to wash dishes and tidy the kitchen, my automatic response was to decline. A while later I changed my mind and accepted. A simple letting-go of resistance gave her an opportunity to be of service and me to embrace loving kindness. 

The theologian Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) writes:

As your body, heart and mind come to know that you are loved, your weakest part will feel attracted to that love. What has remained separated and unreachable will let itself be drawn into the love you’ve been able to receive.

Several hours later, as I hobble to the kitchen for tea, I delight in seeing stove top and counters reflecting my friend’s generosity. 

source: Nouwen, H.J.M. (1996). The inner voice of love. London, UK: Darton, Longman, and Todd, p.46. image:


4 responses »

  1. Thank you for the link explaining equanimity. There is so much more to it than I knew of and it makes more sense to me now. I love the definition of “non-self interference.”

  2. Equanimity has been a huge one for me – from the Enneagram point of view, it’s a 4’s Holy Work (if I remember the vocabularly correctly). In that balance, the body-mind is at peace…

    I feel as if I was meant to see your post tonight as I have been struggling with self-acceptance lately and enjoying some awful insomnia as a result (my son has been sick keeping me up at night as well, but even when I *can* sleep, I find… I just can’t!). Part of the reason is telling myself I should be doing more… In other words, no equanimity, no balance…

    I am so glad you are writing about your experience because the kind of physical pain you describe has always been a fear of mine… It’s horrible, but you are showing me how it can be survived while still feeling a spiritual connection and even spiritual deepening…

  3. Sharing a joy is a happiness doubled 🙂 I was truly happy to be of service and left your home feeling whole. I am blessed.
    Sending you healing thoughts and calm presence.


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