Here on Fascia Freedom Fighters we are always talking about how to live most happily in our bodies. That means we talk a lot about how these body things of ours work, and strategies for rehabilitating or preventing injury, erosion, pain, and other unpleasantness. What we haven't talked about all that much is how to deal with what the mind has to say about all that unpleasantness.
Many of you in the FFF tribe are either working with clients and students who are dealing with a good bit of pain and restriction, or you are dealing with it (or have dealt with it) yourself, or some combo of those things. So how do we deal with how much it sucks to be dealing with physical problems?
Well for me personally one prong of my spiritual practice is The Work which was discovered by Byron Katie, and I work with a wonderful facilitator of The Work, Grace Bell who also happens to also run a group on looking at issues around pain, sickness, and death. She is also currently rehabilitating from a very significant injury of her own where she tore her hamstrings off the ischial tuberosity, requiring surgery to reattach them. Ouch. So she's pretty dialed in on looking physical discomfort squarely in the face. In this interview we get to learn a few things from her about how to inquire into one's thoughts about pain and suffering.
:50 Usually on the FFF we’re talking about how to live happily in a human body. So we’re also talking a lot about the frustration of when it’s not going the way you want. I explain that I am a student of Grace’s and Byron Katie’s and this is my spiritual practice, and it’s basically a way of inquiring about one’s stressful/suffering thoughts.
3:05 I ask Grace to describe what The Work is
3:18 [Grace] Byron Katie is a woman in her 70’s and she goes by Katie. She had a massive shift in consciousness in her early 40’s. She was severely depressed, a shut in, addicted to drugs, and all of that shifted and she came to perceive the world in a different way. It just sort of happened to her. She talked about discovering The Work and it’s basically 4 questions: asking whether or not something is true, how do you react when you think that thought, who would you be without the thought, and then you do a turnaround. So it’s an inquiry of the mind.
5:40 [me] I discuss my skepticism in initially finding The Work. I say it's a way of just slowing yourself down and it can get very profound when you work with a group or a facilitator and when you turnaround what you believed is true.
6:24 [me] Speaking to our work here on FFF, just in time for running your own group on dealing with pain and sickness, etc. you are dealing with your own pretty major injury.
6:55 I have pulled my hamstring on the right side right off the bone- the ischial tuberosity- a hamstring avulsion. When I hurt it I hurt it very badly and I couldn’t sit down but I could walk, so I didn’t go to the ER I rested and it never stopped hurting so finally I went to the doctor and he gave me pain medication and that’s all, and he told me to see a PT. The whole time I was watching my own mind, “Oh here’s this piece of information...” “Oh this person is now saying this thing...” I am so fascinated in watching what’s in the back of my mind as comments: “I don’t know if they know what they’re talking about.” “Oh I have to get surgery!”
9:05 I love looking at when I have a fear response. So now I have upcoming surgery which has to happen and that’s going to come in a couple of weeks. And it’s great to have the work in stressful times.
10:09 [me] For those who are living with chronic pain who are listening right now, I’m sure they’re thinking this is about putting a positive, fresh spin on something that they hate, and it’s really not about wallpapering over the bad feeling. I read one of her Grace notes:
10:48 I read her work related to dealing with her feelings about the chronic pain.
12:51[Grace] It’s never been about stopping thinking your negative thoughts. Instead be open to these negative thoughts. They’re passionate! they are calling to be really seen and looked at and heard. The way the mind works is that it wants to pass over things very quickly, “Let’s just get back to the good part where I’m feeling ok.” But instead if you slow down- “Let’s say my leg will never be the same, that might be true, what happens if I look at that?” can you find the possibility in that?
14:40 [me] I talk about how my chronic pain led me to a mission led career- and my turnaround was finding that possibility out of my pain
15:47 We live in a world of duality. You can see the opposite in everything. You can see the good reasons a thing is happening and a bad reason thing is happening. Just ask is there anything- and it’s sort of a counterintuitive way- that you can see in the turnaround. And it’s just as true. It’s not making up something airy fairy.
17:00 [me] I talk about Byron Katie talking about the moment of when you’re in the storm and it does just really suck can you find that part of you that is apart. that is just watching unattached.
17:20 [Grace] It’s quite incredible. I have found that whenever I look at the most stressful, shocking or intense moment of something I’ve been through that there is a place that is watching that is untouched. It’s like you get to see this eye that is watching. And it really was ok, because you did make it through. Here you are looking back. It’s not saying I love everything that happens or I condone it. It’s simple, it’s like now I’m here, and I made it through, and so I can investigate. And you can see even in the moment if now when you have pain it’s interesting to look deeply and see how you feel that pain. See if there’s anything esle going on besides just the pain.
20:05 [me] I talk about how the work gets people into this granular microsecond to microsecond present tense and that if you are looking at pain you find that much of it is past tense or future tense. “that was awful” or “this will never get better”
20:30 Grace mentions Byron Katie quote: “Pain is on its way out”. the only way I can anticipate this surgery coming up is to match it with past experience. It’s based on the past.
22:33 [Grace] There’s so much freedom in finding a tiny awareness. You don’t need to have a huge shift in how you see the world or your pain. Just a little bit of a shift. I like thinking about it as a little boat traveling around the planet in a giant ocean, and if it only makes a tiny degree change, it will be in a completely different country by the time it sails the ocean. So tiny inquiries can change things.
23:53 I ask about themes she sees in her group on pain, sickness, and death.
24:11 I ask people to think about times when they were hurt physically in their lives and I have them pick one memory and see what do they want in that moment, what should be happening in the moment, what shouldn’t be happening and you get these really simple concepts like “this shouldn’t be happening”.
25:52 So we can do the questions right now with “this shouldn’t be happening”. The first question is, “Is it true?” and sometimes the answer will be, “Well of course it is! I really don’t like this!”. So the second question is, “Can you absolutely know that it’s true?” just to help you spend a little more time there and slow you down. Sometimes that first yes will be so fast. I love how only you get to answer. You’re the authority, so if you have another yes, no problem, that’s the answer. So the third question, “How do you react when you believe the thought this really shouldn’t be happening?” It’s very interesting because if you really believe the thought, then you are arguing with reality. You are against reality. And that’s a very hard place to be. You see what happens in the body- very tight, worried, fear. And we spend time in there exploring that. And then the 4th question, “Who would you be without the thought?” What a strange thing! How could I not have the thought? I like imagining that I came from another planet, or I’m a little child, and I can’t have the thought, “this shouldn’t be happening”. It’s very different. It’s like being on a roller coaster ride, you might relax on the way down. It’s very settled.
29:00 Those are the 4 questions and then there’s always a turnaround. So flipping the whole thing. What’s the opposite of your original concept “this shouldn’t be happening”? Is there anything that comes out of this that is of benefit or an advantage? I will be spending a lot of time on the couch and I have a book proposal I need to finish. So I’ll finish it probably! It could be the tiniest little examples, just a glimpse that it’s not all bad.
30:38 I mention the extra wind at your back that people get when they work in a group. When you get stumped on your own stuff and you hear other people answer with their thoughts and it kicks in and you have the support of other people all interested in questioning their beliefs.
32:00 I mention that chronic pain (and all pain) can be so lonely, so group work is helpful that way.
34:00 Grace mentions her groups/teleclasses. A one year group, it’s very powerful to have a small group working together all year. There’s one on food and eating, relationships- sometimes people bring intimate relationships but sometimes a parent, child, someone who is driving them crazy. Then I do parenting. And sexuality is the last one- attraction and repulsion and all the little thoughts that come out of that. But behind all of it is stressful beliefs. Not having a good time with all that’s going on in your head.