Awhile ago, I wrote a piece for you called Dear Readers, This Year I Want to Write About Happiness. Since then, I’ve been through a storm of painful circumstances that is turning out to be a blessing in disguise.
“Oh, my God,” I told a friend who came to help, as we sat side by side at the edge of the millpond below my house. “It’s the joyous paradox, right here, right now!” And true enough: Now that I’ve come through the pain, rigorously choosing to be with it, accept it for what it is, and share it, I’m living in a broad and golden moment of relief, joy, and whole-heartedness. I am deeply and thoroughly happy.
So how did I get here? What’s the secret of my happiness? Here are three preliminary thoughts, plus a video of me singing.
1. We weren’t meant to do this work alone. Whether the pain is an old story from your past that comes up and wallops you in the face, which is what happened to me, or a new and menacing diagnosis from your doctor, or unrelenting cravings for alcohol or food, or the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one, pain needs help for healing.
All well and good, we might say, but it’s hard to reach out in the middle of an emotional storm. This brings me to point 2:
2. When pain hits, just breathe. When I focus on my breath, mindful of what I’m actually experiencing right now, in this moment, I’m helping my brain to activate powerful biological tools that calm the nervous system. I first learned mindfulness meditation years ago. Last year I renewed my practice with an eight-week course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction with holistic nurse Pam Ressler of Stress Resources. I’m so glad I did. It really worked.
3. Restore your soul through music and other creative pursuits. Singing has become my most immediate refuge in hard times. I don’t really know why that happened. But when I look back, I can see a clear progression from singing the folk song “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad” on family road trips as a kid, to singing at the bedside of someone who is sick or sorry, to starting each morning with a meditative song that I made up myself.
I’ll have more to share about creative self-expression as a healing modality for patients and caregivers alike. For today, let me close with a short video of me singing the chant that I composed to get me through my recent storm. It’s called “In This Moment, With This Breath.”
Very truly yours,