I was speaking with a woman who’d had terrible and constant pain in her neck and shoulders for most of her life. She had been to every doctor, taken every pill, visited every spiritual teacher, tried every method, every practice, every mantra. Everything had only provided temporary relief. Even beautiful non-dual teachings of ‘being in the moment’ and ‘knowing oneself as pure awareness’ hadn’t really helped.
“Why is the pain still here? After all I’ve done, with all I know…”
I’ve heard this kind of thing from so many people all over the world. We’ve tried everything, been to every healer, had every kind of spiritual insight and experience, and yet we are not ‘over’ our pain yet. It’s ‘still here’. We can end up feeling so disappointed. Like we are failures, far from healing. Like we are ‘doing something wrong’.
But healing is never far away. I invited the woman to allow herself to feel the pain in her neck and shoulders more deeply. To be present with the raw sensations there. To breathe into them. To be curious. To allow them to intensify if they wanted to. To allow them to move, to break up, to flutter, to pulsate, to burn. But to stay present, and curious; to allow, to trust, to breathe.
Suddenly a great terror welled up in her body. An old fear of becoming overwhelmed, of dying, of going mad, of breaking apart. “Breathe into this,” I reminded her. Her entire body started to shake, convulse. “Breathe. Trust. I’m here with you…”. This went on for a couple of minutes. I stayed close. Then it stopped as quickly as it had begun. She opened her eyes. She started to laugh, to cry with relief. “Wow,” she said. “Just… wow”. There were no words. The pain in her neck and shoulders was gone. Her whole body felt rested, relaxed, grounded. She was welling up with love and gratitude.
Instead of trying to ‘heal’ or ‘get rid of’ her pain (she had tried so hard over the years!), she finally was able to meet it instead, make a home for it, allow it. Her pain had become bound up with emotion – fear, rage, and underneath, great sorrow, even despair. These emotions had been held tightly in her body since she was a little one, when it wasn’t safe to allow herself to feel what she felt. So energy had got stuck in her shoulders. Feeling into the ‘pain’ was the invitation for these old energies to finally begin to move in her. Her body was literally shaking out old bound-up energy, in the safety of the present moment, in the safety of our relational field.
She was learning to trust herself again. Trust her body. Trust the power of presence. Trust someone else to stay close with her in the fire of her experience. Even trust the pain itself, see the intelligence in it. In a space of safety, and presence, and care, and love, she was able to begin to bear the unbearable, so the unbearable was not unbearable any longer. This is how healing happens – through love, through presence, through the courage to come closer.
– Jeff Foster
EkhartYoga members can watch talks and discussions on healing, spiritual awakening and self-realisation with Jeff Foster here.