It’s that time of year when many of us begin a conscious daily practice of being thankful. I have lots of Facebook friends who use November as a time to post a status update about one thing for which they are thankful each day of the month.
Gratitude can be such a wonderful antidote to the negativity that can trap me and keep me stuck. But some things are just too negative to ignore. Sometimes pain is too painful for even gratitude lists to fix.
The other day a friend of mine posted something like, “It finally happened! I was able to put something from my ‘why life sucks’ list onto my gratitude list!”
First of all, I had never considered I could make an anti-gratitude list. And for me at least, this is probably not a good idea. But the concept that things could move from that list to another is a very hopeful, healing thought.
Today I have a huge gratitude list. My “anti-gratitudes” are minor in the grand scheme if things. But there is one that is really bothering me right now. I am in awful pain. I have a pinched nerve in my shoulder and it hurts like hell.
It’s 5:00 in the morning, I can’t sleep, and I’m asking myself, is it possible to be grateful for this pain?
Nothing forces me to stay in the present moment like physical pain. I generally can’t numb it or ignore it by thinking about the past or worrying about the future – I’ve tried! Nope, pain forces me to live in the uncomfortable here and now. It demands my attention.
And God and serenity cannot be found in the past or the future – only this present moment. Pain brings me to the place where God is. Where healing is. Where love is. Here and now.
Pain has also brought me to a place where I am useful. I would not be writing at 5:00 in the morning if I were not in pain right now, trust me!
Pain also helps me develop compassion for other people in pain. Generally I have a very low tolerance for pain, whether it’s mine or someone else’s. I numb it in myself and avoid it in others. But in meditating on this pain, I also think of other people who are suffering, and I now know a small piece of what they are going through.
I am grateful to be centered in the present moment. I am grateful to be useful. I am grateful for understanding. I am grateful for the gift of pain.
If what we resist persists, perhaps the path to healing is embracing the pain, whatever it is, and finding gratitude for it.