Photo credit: Aditya Saxena via Unsplash

Lessons from 30 Years of Chronic Pain

Now that I am freed up from distractions in my physical body, I find myself keenly aware of the next hill… the mind.

As I continue to work through my own inner healing and learn more about creating a high performance mindset, I am continuously struck at how similar the takeaways are between healing from mindbody conditions and optimizing our mindset to create the lives of our dreams.

Whether you struggle with self-sabotage or imposter syndrome in your career, or chronic physical pain or illness, the lessons seem to be the same.

“Eventually you will see that the real cause of problems is not life itself. It’s the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes the problems.” — The Untethered Soul

Now that I am living on the other side of stress induced, mindbody conditions, here are the lessons I have learned:

Embrace the pain to avoid the suffering.

The avoidance of pain (and our natural inclination) only causes more pain! When we face our pain head on and stop running from it, we can start to understand what it is trying to tell us. We often misinterpret pain and other issues as believing our bodies are “weak” or “failing us.” This couldn’t be farther from the truth. As Dr. Joe Dispenza is famous for saying “Life happens FOR you, not TO you.” Said another way, our bodies are trying to tell us that we are operating out of alignment in some way and is trying to get our attention so we can operate from a place of mind-body-heart coherence. When we genuinely ask our hearts, what it has to say and relinquish control of the situation and outcome, we can begin to open ourselves up for all kinds of healing (body, mind, spirit). Check out a fantastic (non-health) podcast by People Business on embracing pain to avoid suffering here.

Pain of any kind can be a distraction from your mission.

Whether your pain is physical, psychological or behavioral, the outcome is the same. Pain of any kind serves to distract you from your mission (to live the life you are truly worth of living) and gives you something to focus on other than doing the things that you are put on this planet to do. It is just one more way to give yourself something to focus on as a distraction for why you aren’t doing what you know in your heart you should be doing.

Treatments and personal development can be a distraction too.

Do you hop from coach to coach? Or course to course? Or book to book? Or doctor to doctor?

Sure. We all have our “things” and consciously learning and growing is incredibly important to reaching our potential. But don’t let learning or medical treatments serve as a replacement for taking a look at what is happening inside and then taking inspired action every day to fully live our lives.

We will never have all the training, all the knowledge, all the time, all the money or all the healing. Never. This is the condition of LIFE. YAY!

To be sure, there is nothing wrong with having our “things” distract us. This is also a normal part of being human. But once you start to know that you are doing doing “your thing” as a way to avoid “the one thing,” you’ll start to see it every time and then you can choose to make different choices, one choice at a time.

Our outer worlds are mirrors to what is happening on the inside.

In the book, The Great Work of Your Life, author Steven Cope describes an elephant swinging its trunk wildly through a market, creating chaos and destruction as it goes down the road. But when the elephant is given something to hold in its trunk, it proceeds calmly through the market, walking with steady confidence.

Our lives are like this too. When our outer lives feel chaotic and out of control, we are usually feeling the same internally and unconsciously replicate these feelings throughout our lives. Are you feeling aligned in your finances, your career, your marriage, your health…?

The truth is, when I was dealing with back pain, I did not feel in control of my life. It felt like I was living a life that was happening to me instead of living a life of my choosing. Back pain and chronic illness gave me something else to focus on, which then supported an unconscious belief that life was happening to me.

A smaller example of this might be with a relationship or a project at work. We often become attached to beliefs and then respond in accordance with that belief. It could be as simple as believing something negative or positive about someone and then looking for seemingly indiscernible evidence to support your belief.

What we want doesn’t always happen on our time.

What we want doesn’t always happen on our time and willing things to happen without consistent action rarely works.

It is not until we really surrender the outcome and choose to fully embrace our lives as they currently are, that things can start to shift. When we become attached to a particular outcome, we limit HOW healing or growth can happen. This is often referred to as a “fixed mindset.” When we can shift into a “growth mindset,” we can begin to open ourselves up to creative possibilities, relax and have fun. This is where the magic happens.

Decide where you are going & claim it.

Decide where you are going, claim what is joyful and recognize how it makes you feel.

With long term struggles, this one can be especially difficult to do. We become accustomed to living in a way that reminds us of our pain or discomfort. Over time, these narratives actually become more deeply grooved into our brains (this is proven through neuroscience), making it more difficult to remember what it feels like to feel good. Our struggles become our reality.

Pain (as well as fear, anxiety, addition, etc.) distracts us and makes us forget where it is that we want to go. It makes us forget that we DO have choices and that we do have some say on where our ship sails.

The key is claiming where you want to go and putting consistent, daily action behind it. Claim your healing. Claim your job or promotion or achievement. Claim the relationship of your dreams. Claim it, keep it in your sights and hold a vision of it. Remind yourself of it daily.

In my own house, I have a reminder of my vision strategically placed in five different spots around my house so that I don’t forget where I’m going.

Then bring that desire into your body, reminding yourself of how you will FEEL when that thing that you want happens. How will your body feel? How will your mind feel? How will YOU feel? What are the specific emotions that you will have when the thing that you desire happens. We know that this kind of visualization exercise works — we hear of professional athletes at the height of their game using it all the time. And you can do it too.

Using the same mindset and energy that got us where we are today is not necessarily going to get us where we want to go tomorrow. If this were true, we would already be there.

Hold the vision of where you want to go.

Not in a controlling way, but in a way that keeps you mindful of all the little choices that you make throughout the day that add up to making that dream that you have a reality.

Dr. Joe Dispenza has many resources to support you in making this mindset shift part of your daily life including his book Becoming Supernatural and his meditations, including Morning and Evening Meditations.

Rinse and repeat.

Every word of this is true. I know it because I am living it. And you probably have too. And yet, we forget.

And that’s ok! The key is to catching yourself when you stumble and beginning again. You don’t have to go all the way back to the start — start again, today, where you are right now.

Often, what gets us off course are our thoughts and feelings. This is normal. But remember, thoughts are just thoughts. Feelings are just feelings. They are not facts and they are not reality. Remind yourself of what is factually true, not what you feel in the moment.

Photo credit: Joel Fulgencio via Unsplash

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” — Dr. Wayne Dyer.

Today, take one small right action, followed by one small, right action (I’ll be doing that same thing, right along side you.) You’ve got this!

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