A couple of weeks ago I was camping on Mt. Shasta in Northern California. The idea was to spend a few of the last days before the rain and snow hit, enjoying the sun, watching birds and other small animals, and just doing nothing. Which was great… except, I ran out of water.
I really didn’t want to leave my campsite to go into town and buy more. And, of course, I didn’t have a filter with me because I was car camping. Luckily, I quickly realized that the meadow I was camping beside had a spring, a spring that offered pure, crystal clear, beautiful water. Water that had no need of filtering or boiling. Happiness!
Early the next morning I trekked up to the head of the spring with my jugs. I sat beside the spring for a bit, soaking in the beauty and magic of the meadow. I decided that instead of just taking the water, I would ask the mountain for permission. Which I did.
I really, really wanted to have some grand experience, to be touched in some way, to have some felt sense that yes, I was allowed to take of the waters. It didn’t happen. I sat there longer. “Maybe, if I just wait long enough, I’ll get my mystical experience.”
I began to grow anxious and worried. Was the mountain rejecting my request? Had I done something wrong? Was asking in the first place just a really silly and hippy thing to do?
I didn’t know.
I’d almost decided to just take some water and run back to my campsite but something kept holding me back. It just didn’t feel right.
Then, suddenly, I heard a voice. And, no, it wasn’t some grand, spine-tingling voice. It was my voice saying “Foolish girl, the water is freely offered. Take what you need.”
And, laughing, I did.
What does that story have to do with the normal topics of pain and/or self-care?
As I see it, it’s all about relationship.
The relationship we have with ourselves, with our bodies, with the parts of our bodies that are hurting. And, as in the story above, with our environment (the meadow/mountain) as well.
More than just relationship, it’s about right relationship.
Right relationship and the meadow:
When I’m in right relationship with the mountain, the meadow, the springs, I feel respect and gratitude. When I am in this relationship, right action becomes possible.
I’m going to walk slowly through the meadow, staying on the trail so I don’t crush any of the fragile alpine plants that take 200-400 years to reach maturity. And, I’m going to take only the water I need from a part of the stream where the bank is solid and not subject to erosion.
These practices will allow the meadow to continue to flourish and for the spring to continue to be a source of nourishment for the animals that depend on it and the people that visit.
The beauty of right relationship is this: when you are in it, these things just happen naturally.
There is no need for signs warning you to stay on the path, no need to rope off the beginning of the spring to protect it from overuse.
One simply enters the meadow and wonders at the fragile plants rather than stepping on them. Right relationship leads to right action.
Right relationship and our bodies:
When we are in right relationship with our bodies, right action also becomes possible and we automatically do the necessary things to keep them strong and healthy. We exercise, we eat nutritious food, we get enough sleep, we nourish ourselves and our bodies with healthy relationships and supportive self-care practices.
If our bodies begin to hurt or become injured in some way, we seek appropriate care.
And, the beauty of right relationship again is this: when in right relationship, all these things just happen naturally and easily.
There is no to-do list, no need to remember to drink water, no obligation to exercise for an hour 3 or more times a week.
It all just takes care of itself. Sounds pretty good, right? So, how do we get there?
First, what happens when we aren’t in right relationship?
Being out of right relationship with the meadow and the spring means I won’t follow the above practices and eventually, the meadow and the spring will eventually be destroyed.
There will be no more beautiful alpine wildflowers, no more clear, pure, thirst-quenching water. Only a scarred, barren landscape will remain.
When we are not in right relationship with our bodies.
When we are out of right relationship with our bodies, both respect and gratitude are missing in the way we relate to our bodies and right action becomes very difficult.
There are huge variations in how this may look in our lives. Maybe we feel slightly ‘off’ or stuck in our lives. Maybe we don’t eat well or don’t get regular sleep or exercise. Maybe our bodies often hurt or we are especially susceptible to injury or illness. Or, perhaps we find ourselves easily irritated, angered or defensive.
In my work, pain of any sort signals being out of right relationship to some degree or another.
So, how can we find and nurture right relationship?
Well, every post so far has been talking about just this… how to come into right relationship with ourselves and our pain. We can treat pain gently, invite the painful parts back to the table, or practice witnessing pain.
For today, when you notice discomfort, pain, or tension, pause and ask yourself:
How would I treat this hurting part of my body if I fully respected it and felt grateful for it?
Actually feeling respect or gratitude isn’t even necessary. Just ask the question and see what happens. That’s enough.
And, just like the meadow, when right relationship is achieved, right action becomes possible. You will find yourself automatically taking the necessary steps that will allow you to sink deeper and deeper into right relationship with yourself.
- Pain and suffering are signals for us to re-find right relationship with our bodies and in our lives.
- We can use pain as a reminder to practice finding right relationship.
- When we are in right relationship with our lives and our bodies, right action becomes possible and feels very natural.
There’s much more that can be said about right relationship and many, many more ways to find right relationship.
For now, just remember today’s question and see where it leads. 🙂