There’s a poem by the Sufi poet Jalalludin Rumi that we often use in mindfulness classes. Here’s the text:
This being human is a guest house.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Welcome and entertain them all!
He may be clearing you out
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Be grateful for whoever comes,
This is a story about a recent “guest” of mine.
Almost six months ago, without any clear warning, I began to experience pain. It was in my upper back, the left side of my neck, a bit on the top of my shoulder. I couldn’t remember having pulled something, or there being any particular reason for the pain. It was a nuisance. Some days it was barely perceptible; some days it made me irritable.
I took ibuprofen. I stretched. I did strength training. It didn’t budge. Then, something worse happened: It started to interfere with my sleep. I’d get into bed at night and turn to my side, and within seconds, there’d be a dull throbbing. My favorite sleeping positions made the pain worse. For any relief, I had to sleep on my back, my arms held a certain way, which felt like a straitjacket. My breathing became tight and fearful.
I had an x-ray to rule out anything serious; it came back negative.. “Oh,” I thought, with some disdain mixed with sarcasm… “So now I have chronic pain? Is that what this is?” And I doubled down on the ibuprofen and stretching, and I set my jaw–which definitely made the pain worse. But I couldn’t let go.
Finally, after many months, I saw a sports medicine physician who prescribed physical therapy. Weeks later, the PT cradled my head, and as she did I felt the rigid muscles begin to melt. Without warning, tears came to my eyes…