IMG_1515My friend gave me a flower one morning. I kept it on my bicycle, and by the time I’d arrived at my destination, through 20 minutes of  heavy Chiang Mai traffic, it was, as expected, more withered, but still beautiful. In Buddhism, flowers are placed on the alter  to remind us that all things are impermanent. The freshness, fragrance, and beauty of flowers do not last. They will become withered, scentless and discolored. But this is how nature is. It is a reminder that we should value what we have now and live in the present.The withered flower is beautiful in it’s honesty, its representation of the world we live in.

Pain is like the flower…

This one is personal.

This is for those of you who are nurturing injuries or in a healing process.

For months I had this pain in my left posterior mediastinum. When I took a deep inhalation, expanding the area, I experienced a sharp, tight sensation that would radiate around my scapula.

It was oddly comforting. It reminded me that I had something to work for- To become pain free.

It was guidance. Information. It was pain but I didn’t think of it as “bad”, and I respected it by not pushing its boundaries. Instead I explored its limits and played within them.

Then one day it was gone. And I missed this pain!

It was a point of reference for so long. When I breathed into the area, I FELT something, and I missed that with each inhalation I could feel myself and knew that I was alive.

The pain reassured me that I was expanding posteriorally with my breath, something that I had been working so hard to achieve. And now my reference of it was gone. Was all my hard work gone, too?

Shouldn’t I have been happy? Wasn’t to eliminate pain what I wanted?

But instead, I missed it. I wanted my reference back. I wanted the daily reminder that there was a goal I was working towards: Becoming pain free, which, ironically, felt empty. But now there was no reminder. I got what I wanted… But was it really what I wanted?

Did I want to be pain-free, or did I want to feel that I was alive? Did I want to get rid of something, or did I want reassurance that something important was present in me?

And then, months later, the pain came back! Was I happy to be reunited with the “friend” I had missed? No. I was annoyed. I thought I had dealt with this! I thought I had learned this lesson. I had finally let go and found new points of reference unrelated to pain.

I had to question: So now am I moving backwards and not forwards?

But time only moves forwards.

To experience something similar to what has been in the past is not to regress, but just to feel something different. This was not the same friend as before. I felt less attached. Less reassured by its presence, and more assured that I could, at last, let it go.

And a few days later, the pain was gone, again. Just like that.

A funny relationship to have with pain. To become so attached to it while simultaneously wanting to let go of it. And then when let go, unsure what to do without it. Upon its return, to have a completely different relationship. That is the transient nature of pain- We can never fix it (also a pleasant reminder that we are never broken).

This reminds me of the times rehearsing heavily when it felt foreign not to be sore. How being sore reassured me I was still a dancer because we are told that to be a dancer is to be in pain.

Here’s the fallacy: All those who are dancers may experience pain and soreness, but not all those who are sore and in pain are dancers.

A suggestion: Let us not judge pain, for it can be a great reference and guide. We can explore pain, for it is an incredible source of information. Let us not get too attached to it or make it an integral part of our identity. Remember that we can decide to let go of pain when it is no longer necessary as a reference or a guide. And when it is gone, we do not need to keep looking for it.

Let it go, and carry on living.

Understand that all life is volatile like this. Pain comes and goes. You can gain or lose from volatility. You can gain or lose from pain.

Pain is volatile. There one day, gone the next. What can you gain from volatility? What can you gain from pain?