Pain: Our Greatest Teacher

Sometimes the only way we can learn something is by feeling it; by truly experiencing a sensation deep enough to shake us to our bones. My father calls this the "two by four method", and used to say the only way I ever learned was when I was hit over the head with the information. I don't think he understood how literal this has turned out to be true. 

I am a kinesthetic learner, which means I learn by tactile experiences; by touching, tasting, smelling, and seeing rather than hearing or reading. This means that I need to engage my senses, particularly my body in order to understand my relationship to the subject at hand. Perhaps this is why I lean towards the sensual arts and kink...  

Sometimes the felt experience is subtle: when I am listening to someone speak I often need to move my body or be touched (always down for a massage!). Other times it is more overt: when I fall while dancing or cut my finger chopping veggies. In the more extreme cases, the pain becomes my greatest teacher, showing me something I could not have learned on my own. 

When I experience great pain, whether it be physical or emotional, I have a barometer to work with. It is as if my body can read that the gas tank is empty and I need to pull over. I can lean into the pain and listen. Often it speaks very clearly: "slow down" or "let go" or "focus". 

There are times when pain can seem debilitating, as if I have no choice but to focus on it and sit with the anger and frustration it breeds. But this is precisely when the teachings begin... It is in this moment I can open up to the pain and listen to it like an old friend sharing a story. I sit with the wisdom the pain shares - and it will talk - you only have to listen. I can slowly start to release the narrative that the pain has control over me - that this pain, whether it be emotional or physical, gets to decide my next move. 

What happens next is a shift in perception: a turning toward what is possible instead of what may seemed to set you back. As someone who dances, practices yoga, and runs as part of my daily health and wellness practice, I went thru this experience when I sprained my ankle trying to take a shortcut over a fence. Initially the injury gave me very clear wisdom: taking a short cut now will not get me where I am going in the long run. After sitting with the pain and all of the subsequent feelings of dread, I realized my ankle was just a very small part of my body. I still had my arms and head, my chest and stomach, and even my left leg which could still hop around. I saw a clear path towards strengthening my upper body while my ankle healed. Miraculously I was back on two feet within a day - my sprained ankle healed completely within a few weeks because I was able to give it rest and attention while also not feeding the story it was completely debilitated. 

Faith and trust are a big part of the process of accepting and moving thru pain. You have to know you will be okay and that the pain you might be feeling is going to change and ultimately feel better. It may not be comfortable but it can bring you wisdom you may not find anywhere else, so it is worth feeling. 

This is exactly why BDSM and specifically, impact play can be incredibly healing. It can be a way to experience the teachings and guidance you receive in daily life without having to wait for those experiences to happen to you. Seeking out these experiences can be empowering and ultimately, healing. I like to think of it as bringing the dark to the light instead of being surprised when the dark shows up in your light.  

It may seem crazy to seek out pain, but for those of us who are masochists and sadists, we may actually be tapping into the full potential of the human experience. When we consent to being hurt, we may be inviting in what is already there, what already exists within us. This can help to create space for the pain so that it does not overwhelm us when we encounter it unexpectedly.  

I am grateful for all the pain I have experienced in my life. I wouldn't be where I am today without its often harsh reality checks. It is these sensations - the throbbing, aching, stinging, thudding, beating, breaking that lets us know we are alive. Reminds us of our mortality and keeps our ego in check. 

"There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious." - Carl G. Jung