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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Responding to Pain

Yesterday, Googling around, looking for something comforting to read or listen to for Shabbat, I came to one of my favorite sites www.awakenedheartproject.org and found this beautiful teaching from the late Rabbi Alan Lew. I sadly never had an opportunity to study with Rabbi Lew when he was still here, but I remember passing him in the dining hall and around the grounds at Elat Chayim one summer when I was there for a Yoga Teacher's training with my dear teachers Rabbi Myriam Klotz and Diane Bloomfield. And longingly wanting to be in two classes at one time. I had read his first book, the second had just come out, and I of course wanted to meet and study with him. Although Rabbi Lew is no longer with us in this world, I can still learn from him and hear his words with his own voice, and so can you on the podcast I have linked to the bottom of this entry. It was exactly the right teaching at the right time for me as I am indeed breathing through pain right now.

His suggestion...to soften around the pain is exactly what I have learned to do on my own. I have lived with chronic pain for many years now and this is the most sensible and sane approach to pain management I know. That's not to say I don't accept/use the support of medications when the pain becomes acute and unbearable (like with this new onset of shingles)...I do. But most of the time...simply breathing into the pain, softening around it, being present to it, is enough. But this teaching is about more than pain.

Here is an excerpt from the recording.

Responding to pain-Softening the breath from Rabbi Alan Lew z"l

"If we feel pain of some kind, instead of trying to push it away, instead of trying to resist it… …instead of tensing the muscles of our body just soften the breath.

When we soften the breath, the body becomes softer. When the body becomes softer it offers less resistance to whatever we're feeling and whatever we're feeling has a chance to arise and express itself without being locked in by the hardness of the body.

So we breathe soft. And the harder our reality gets the softer we breathe. And we follow this soft breath, that primal realm deeper than language and form and thought."

If you have time please take 15 minutes to give a listen. You'll be glad you did.
http://www.awakenedheartproject.org/podcasts/how-to-breathe

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