Last week, while sitting in a group meditation, someone drove a knife into my skull on the stroke side…well, it felt as though a murderous event had occurred, but it was yet another bizarre moment of sheer pain from out of nowhere. This happens from time to time, and I am always struck by the pain’s ability to interrupt my thoughts, speech, concentration, and balance. What’s also extraordinary is its sprint from beginning to end; lasting only a matter of seconds, not usually longer than a half-minute, give or take.
So, what to do in a moment when I really don’t want to interrupt everyone meditating? I do the usual, which includes acknowledging the pain, breathing through it, and refraining from telling myself stories about it. But, the pain remains. This seems reasonable to me as I have had a busy week and a higher level of fatigue tends to reek a bit o’ havoc on the mind and body. Then, I go to imagery.
What sighs relief more than a camp fire being put out by a bucket of water? The pain in my head is the fire, my breath in is the water filling up the bucket, and my out- breath is the water being poured onto the flames. The sounds of the water extinguishing the flames and the subsequent hissing are the pain being defeated. I have to repeat this image two more times, and the pain is gone.
Perhaps, because the agony is generally short-lived, the discomfort would have passed despite the imagery. However, what I found was that, in the interim, I was calm and able to continue with the meditation. This is in stark contrast to the other times where I have had a death grip on a counter top, grit my teeth as I tried to remain focused on a conversation, or stopped walking and, bent over at the waist, hung on to my knees for dear life.
A recent article in Maclean’s reinforces the idea of using the power of our brain to heal itself and redirect those very powerful pathways of neurons down the yellow brick road and away from the five rivers of Hades.