Helpful wisdom, compassion and care for you

There is Pain

On a Wednesday in September, I woke up with excruciating pain in my right side which went on 24/7, unrelenting, for almost 3 weeks. Then… it got better. I still don’t know what was wrong. What I do know: it was a really great time to practice the path of the Dharma!

And I want to share some quick thoughts about what I did.

I worked with a Buddhist natural awareness concept that teaches us to think, for example, on hearing a sound, a noise, a song, that there…is…hearing rather than fixating on the exact sound, the source, the impact, the potential concerns, or the meaning of the sound. Thinking there is hearing separates us from identifying with whatever the sound is, and puts the emphasis instead on simple awareness of the sound doors: hearing.

I used this for pain.

There is pain… Stepping back. Kind of depersonalizing this pain I’m experiencing. Just noting it… Being aware.

Saying there is pain, I find that the pain level falls, perceptibly. I’m not engaging with it. I’m able to be curious about it…to be present…not leaping to the future, to what it might mean, to what it might do.

That little bit of extra ease is pretty great!

You avoid the 2nd arrow. You may know the teaching. You can’t avoid the 1st arrow—it’s not under your control. It’s already happened. But you can control the 2nd arrow: perseverating about the pain, the cause, the reason, the prognosis, yadda, yadda, yadda. In fact, the arrow just…is.

My dharma buddy Nupur called me recently and told me that he’d spent his birthday morning getting a tire fixed on his way to work. His birthday morning? Really? He said sometimes it feels like life is a series of challenges.


Buddhists speak of the 10,000 joys and the 10,000 sorrows. The point is, they happen, and it helps to be able to BE with both.

With the weeks of pain, I could have been in a panic. I live alone. I could have felt desolate. I could have been afraid of what the pain signified. But I didn’t and I wasn’t. I chose not to.

Instead, I felt filled with gratitude and continuing curiosity about the practice; with love for family and friends who brought me food and drove me to doctors, for the doctors who cared for me, and for readers who reached out and said, be sure to take the time you need to care for you!

Wow! Thank you! I’m glad we’re in this life together. 🙂


Photo credit: Ryan Arnst


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  1. Erin

    I am so thankful that you are feeling better and thankful for this beautiful message. Peace to you

  2. Nancy

    Thank you for sharing your experience Jo. May you be well and rest in the place where you find peace.

    Loving thoughts and prayers,

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