There’s this saying among athletes and those that are really into sports or physical training that without pain, you don’t gain. Now, I’m not against physical activity or pushing yourself past your limits to get stronger, better, faster or whatever. What I have trouble with is the thought of pain in general.
I’ve recently been diagnosed with a frozen left shoulder — this two years after my right one had frozen. For those of you who have lived through this, you know how painful and debilitating it can be. For those who haven’t (and it’s an affliction that affects women), lucky you. Believe it or not, this blog does tie into writing, so bear with me. I’ll get to that eventually.
I went for my shoulder evaluation yesterday at a wonderful place that was just so professional and manned by people who really understand what has to be done to improve and heal my shoulder. This, as you probably guessed, involves pain. And at times, a lot of it. The exercises are designed to lengthen the capsule in the shoulder and break down the scar tissue that’s resulted from the freezing. In short, get the shoulder back to full mobility and me pain-free. This only comes with hard work, a lot of teeth-gritting and, at times, seeing stars.
This is a similar experience I’ve had at the day job recently, too. Don’t get me wrong. I love my job — the people, the place, the work — but the past week or two have been downright brutal. Add to that all the work that’s led to the debut of my paranormal suspense In This Life tomorrow (tomorrow!), and I was becoming agitated, cranky and foul-mouthed. And as I was working through my shoulder yesterday, and thinking how similar all three situations are in that they are taking me to task, I realized that so much of my experience with my shoulder and my work and my writing are really in my mind. It also occurred to me that the only person who’s making me feel stressed about all of this is me.
Sure, the pain in my shoulder is physical and not created in my mind, and the stress level at work is high because of demand and deadlines, and the book marketing isn’t something that can be ignored, but my reaction to how I handle these stressors is what makes the difference. So I had another epiphany yesterday (I have many of them, though I admit not all of them stick) that the only real way to manage what’s eating at me or making me semi-insane is to do what you do when you meditate. And that’s practicing mindfulness.
Accept. Just let the thought be. Catch and release the emotion.
And while I started doing this, I discovered just how tense my muscles were. How deep the frown was in my brow. How hard my jaw was clenched. So I drew in deep breaths, and every time a stray thought emerged reminding me that I had to do more, that the pain I felt was bad, I caught the thought, labeled it for what it was, and then let it go.
It was very liberating.
Wonderfully, I woke up this morning after a terrific night’s sleep. I ran with the birds on a beautiful, balmy Fall day with leaves turning red and yellow and orange, and felt freed. It’s a sensation I’ve remarkably kept with me all day.
So, the next time someone tells me no pain, no gain, I’ll say no thanks. Pain may be weakness leaving the body, but mindfulness will take me a lot farther. And now that I’m ready to wrap up book 2 in my series and start book 3, this will be very helpful for those times when I’m about ready to pull my hair out.
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