Recently I went through a period of intense physical pain which lasted several weeks and caused some interesting effects. It reminded me of these words by the poet Emily Dickinson:

Pain has an Element of Blank –
It cannot recollect
When it begun – of if there was
A time when it was not.

That is so true, and it also has an Element of New. I have experienced pain in my 66 years, yet this was like the first time. Having felt pain in the past did not make it easier to open to its presence once more. It assaults us full on, and demands a response from us again and again. We have to find some way of being with it, and every time that is a new challenge. I quickly discovered that the ways of allowing and embracing pain of the past did not work. Here was new pain demanding that I take a new journey with it.

Pain has an Element of Total. There is a sliding scale here, but when we are faced with strong pain it can become total in our awareness, and has the potential to completely dominate us. Our energy and identity can start to contract, as other possibilities of enjoyment, pleasure, enthusiasm or satisfaction disappear from our internal horizon. If you live with intense or chronic pain you will know how it infiltrates every action, every thought, every conversation, every feeling, and every plan. It takes centre stage, and everything else exists in reference to it. And along for the ride comes our old friend, fear.

It was so enlightening to watch this unfolding. I have supported many people to maintain a connection with life that is bigger than their pain, and yet here was this same contraction happening to me. Every day I would reinforce a mindset that could help me rise above it, and yet every day I would sink into it and be tempted to believe that I was defined by it.

All my life I have been blessed with great health and energy. I have been proud of my aliveness, resilience and natural fitness. And now at times it was a challenge to just stand, yet alone move with any ease or comfort. How do we nourish and fill ourselves when what we have always relied upon is taken away? Coping with that was a real gear shift which impacted me hugely, but also brought some unexpected gifts.

One example is mindfulness. I regularly teach mindfulness and show people how to be more present and mindful during their activities. We can engage in such practices, but when everything is okay they can remain as something that is nice to do, but which we can ignore when we want to. Now I was forced to be as mindful as possible; there was no other option. Getting in and out of bed became a real art form!

That made me get honest and admit that in subtle ways I had been deceiving myself. At an unacknowledged level I knew I could go unconscious regularly without any major consequences. Just knowing that gives us permission to do so when it suits us, and the mind will quickly justify it. But when that so-called privilege is taken away we are in new territory, and are required to become conscious and responsible to a far more profound degree. By responsible I mean finding the capacity to respond to life in richer, more intimate ways that allow the pain, while finding the courage to affirm that Life is still good. That, it seems to me, is the real journey through pain.

Several gifts were revealed as I engaged with some searching questions that emerged. We all experience pain and I offer six questions to you. A powerful practice is to take a question into your heart, and let it germinate there with no attempt to provide a conceptual answer. Drop the question into your heart as often as you remember, and then allow it to evoke whatever is seeking to emerge from within.

How do I allow the pain and not be diminished by it?

Can I use it to become more conscious and deliberate in my life?

How do I feel about the vulnerability the pain brings?

Am I willing to redefine myself in deeper more meaningful ways?

How can the pain reconnect me with forgotten or denied parts of myself?

Can I live with this pain and still open my heart with love?

Author's Bio: 

Clement McGrath brings 32 years of coaching and mentoring experience and a wealth of knowledge to his work. Clement has worked in a variety of roles that have all involved supporting people to reach their full potential and live the life of their dreams.

He has conducted his own private practice for 32 years, has facilitated youth work in a non-profit organisation, has been a contracted provider to a major government department, and director of Life Coach Associates since 2001.

After facilitating Life Coach Associates coach training program for 10 years, he recently stepped aside from that position to focus on creating a variety of programmes that are more accessible to a wider audience.

These include, “Relationship Rescue,” “How to Harness Your Yes Power,” “How to Increase Your Energy and Achieve More,” “Find Your voice: How to Communicate Confidently and Effectively,” and “Awakening to Infinity: A Course in Self Realisation.”

He is available for private consultations and public speaking, and can create customised programmes to address the specific needs of groups and organisations.

Clement is a qualified Breath Therapist, and has studied extensively in the areas of ‘Effective Communication,’ ‘Human Creativity,’ ‘Principles of Peak Performance and Success,’ and ‘Mythology and its Modern Applications.’

He has co-authored the book, “The Way to Freedom,” and is currently completing a book on relationships that he intends to have published in 2015.

Clement lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, with his partner Heather Fletcher.

Contacts for Clement are:

0064 3 355 2297
0064 272 033 694