3 min read
I haven’t been journaling lately, but last month I had no choice. I felt like I was going to explode. Or maybe implode. I’m not sure which, and it really doesn’t matter, because according to a quick Google search, the results of both are bad and will leave you “equally unhappy with your lot in life.” Yep, that’s how I felt, unhappy with my lot in life.
What was I so unhappy with? Let me quote my journal, “I feel like I’ve aged 20+ years in the last two. I feel ancient. I feel decrepit … yoga poses I used to like and do fairly well now hurt and look pathetic. I hate this!” I think you get the picture.
After a page of ranting, I remembered what I’ve been reading in Tara Brach’s Radical Compassion. She describes a tool for practicing mindfulness and compassion when challenging feelings arise. I was definitely having challenging feelings arise. Could I explore the four steps of Tara’s RAIN meditation?
- “Recognize what is happening;
- Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
- Investigate with interest and care;
- Nurture with self-compassion.”
My journaling helped me to recognize what was happening and be with the experience. It didn’t feel good. I’m having some physical issues right now and I’m grieving the loss of how my body used to be. I want my pain-free, stronger, more flexible body back, and that “wanting” is causing more suffering. Tara refers to this as the second arrow. The actual physical discomfort is the first arrow and the wanting it to be another way is the second arrow. Suffering on top of suffering. Fun!
Okay, step three, investigate with interest and care. Be curious. Instead of cursing because I can’t move the way I want to, could I look at what is available to me right now with playful curiosity? Like in Harry Potter when he is shopping for his wand. The first wand he tries blows a whole wall of boxes onto the floor. “Apparently not” Mr. Ollivander calmly observes and chooses a second wand. “Perhaps this” he wonders before Harry blows up a vase and flower. “No, no, definitely not – no matter.” He chooses the third and final wand saying “I wonder.”
Could I bring that same kind of gentle curiosity to my body? If trying to move a certain way isn’t possible, could I calmly think “apparently not, no matter” and modify the movement to what is available to me – no judgement – no anger – no second arrow?
And step four, nurture with self-compassion. Could I just be with what it feels like in this body with its current limited range of motion? Experience that. Not in sorrow for what is no longer available, but in joy for what is currently available. Love that. Nurture what is with self-compassion. The same as I would for someone dear to me. I wouldn’t push them to do more or condemn them for what they couldn’t do. I’d offer them love and support, not a second arrow.
So, my knees and my shoulder still often hurt. And my yoga poses are still sometimes limited. But my spirit feels much better after working through RAIN. I feel more hopeful about the physical therapy and exercises I’m doing. And living in playful curiosity about what my body can do in this moment is much more enjoyable than living in judgement and anger about what it can’t. I wonder …