I teared up when I watched the video Headway by Access Oneness, because it is so like life, and particularly, so like living with pain.
A man starts walking along a tightrope suspended over a river and loses his balance. It looks like he’ll fall into the river, but he catches himself.
Then something absolutely wonderful happens.
He uses the place of falling, the place that starts to look like a mistake, starts to look like failure, and makes something new from it - something completely unexpected and creative. It’s remarkably beautiful.
The Way Across
Both the tightrope and pain set parameters around experience, but they can not fully determine who we are. They do not determine our response. We may be living with severe limits, but we can create something new in that, through that, with that, and beyond that.
The tightrope limits, yes, but it is also a way across.
Pain limits, yes, but, somehow, it is also a way to something.
We may have to live with pain for a long time - we may have to keep coming back to it, just as the tightrope walker keeps bouncing off and coming back to the rope - but we can also create a kind of awesome flexibility and resilience within that.
Using The Space Above And Around Pain
Instead, through the looseness engendered by his fall, his relationship to the tightrope becomes meaningful, alive, exuberant, and full of freedom. He shifts his focus to the spaces above and around it and uses it to propel him into places he never would have gone before.
And this is the way we can be with our pain, I feel. Yes, we are in it, yes, it defines a lot about our lives, but we have choices within that and around that.
We can choose to focus on the pain itself as something to be overcome or eradicated or fought against. We can look down at it, metaphorically speaking, and hate it. We can stand in one place, our feet aching, our body tense, trying to hold our balance in one stuck position, whatever that may mean for us.
Or we can create.
Even with the pain, we can create. Even if our creativity is more internal than external, we can breathe, flex, adjust. We can re-learn to believe in ourselves and to dream.
Finding Places of Unexpected Beauty
When you watch, notice how he completely changes his relationship not only to the rope but to the space around it – he becomes more engaged with the air, with gravity, with his own body, and the music, and through this engagement he allows himself more freedom, and allows whatever happens to simply and elegantly inform his next move.
This is so much how we want to be with our pain, I believe.
I think it bears watching Headway repeatedly, for those of us walking the tightrope of pain. We can imagine ourselves moving more freely, practicing inner agility, and creating a relationship with pain that is fluid, has breath, and may even propel us into unexpected places of freedom and beauty.
Sarah Anne Shockley is the author of The Pain Companion: Everyday Wisdom For Living With and Moving Beyond Chronic Pain and Living Better While Living With Pain.
She is a regular columnist for Pain News Network. Visit her at www.thepaincompanion.com for resources for people in chronic pain and more information on her work.