Ayse’s writing has brought up a lot for me. Her responses to suffering are inspiring and very helpful. My own suffering and ill-health is nothing like as bad – I certainly have plenty of room for complaint. For many years I have struggled with the push-pull of acceptance and rejection of symptoms, though not life threatening or as excruciatingly painful as Ayse’s, have certainly given me many hours of discomfort and distress.
I watched a documentary the other day. The film crew followed a group of severely wounded soldiers returning to the UK from Afghanistan after being blown up by land mines. All of them had had both their legs amputated, one had also lost an arm and lost his sight for many months. The way that they accepted their injuries, the pain and devastation of their bodies, was truly incredible.
I know we cannot easily make comparisons and I get what Ayse says when she advises not to judge another’s pain, but I keep thinking about those soldiers and now Ayse, and can just remind myself of their bravery, and it is helpful. And it is brave to endure without flinching or need to escape. Ayse had the conditions, to realise that trying to escape or flinching away would add to her suffering.
The other thoughts that came to mind was the memory of watching my daughter’s suffering when she was run down by a scooter in New York and had a badly fractured pelvis. Her pain and suffering was intense and as a mother what I wanted to do was to take this pain away from her. I could not, of course, take any of her suffering away from her – it was hers to endure. I was careful not to express any thoughts in that direction. What I knew was that I needed to be still with her and trust. I remember at times when it seemed good to do, doing some of the things that Ayse found so helpful – the distractions, talking to her, finding programs on TV leaving her to her visitors. And then being there, in the morning, after the loneliness and despair of the night.
Daughter continues to have pain from her injuries and will have to endure a number of painful surgeries in the future. She does not have the benefit of meditation and Buddhist teachings to support her but somehow she and those soldiers and many others suffering in many different ways, endure.
I suppose what I am aware of now is the connectedness of the human condition. All we can do is look to our own practice (and what I mean is everything we can do is look to our own practice) – a practise that is for the benefit of all living things.
So thanks Ayse for sharing.
2 thoughts on “A Response to Pain”
Thanks Adrienne. I know what you mean that sometimes comparing can be inspiring or encouraging. When I see other patients in the waiting room of my doctor or in hospital I feel lucky and grateful, I mean it can ‘always’ be worse. Realising that puts things into perspective and is inspiring.
Witnessing someone else’s pain is sometimes worse than being in pain yourself. Especially someone close, like in your case your daughter. I hope she can recover from her injuries caused by the accident. I know what it is to have a pelvis that is all orthopaedically constructed.
As you say, the best way to help someone who is in pain is to get your own worries out of the way and simply be there for them. I can sometimes see that my pain is daunting for others, it brings up stuff of their own for them they don’t always know how to deal with. And when I am in a lot of pain it can be too much for me to take that on as well. So when my resilience level is low the most compassionate thing to do is try to avoid that sort of situations as much as possible and accept that someone is not able to be there for me right now.
Best of wishes to you and your daughter!
Thanks for your good wishes. Daughter is in-between surgeries at the moment and is doing well considering.
I wish you well, too.