As I lay on the acupuncture table, needles sticking from several points in my body, I began to weep, because the insertion was painful. I believed in the healing powers of acupuncture, but I felt something deep within me ask if every desire to be healed, whole and at peace must involve pain.
Acupuncture is something I believe in; and in normal circumstances it is not painful. I had experienced it before and no pain was involved. But for some reason, this particular time it had involved a lot of pain, and I took it willingly, as I have always done with pain when it held the promise that I might finally find the elusive inner peace I’d been searching for all of my life.
But lying there on that table something in me snapped. It was as if my whole body said, ‘Enough!’ I have spent the better part of my adult life seeking answers to ease the pain in my body and soul, and I was willing to go to any lengths to find it. None of these avenues were necessarily bad, and many were beneficial. But it had been dawning on me in the past year that maybe all of this seeking and searching and willingness to inflict pain on myself was actually the root of the problem.
Awhile back I promised my body that I would cause it no more intentional pain. I did my best not to criticize it or push it beyond its limits. Beginning with my years as a gymnast when I was a very young girl, I had been criticizing and inflicting pain on my body to get it to perform and look in ways that demonstrated perfection in my eyes. Of course in my eyes, that perfection was never realized.
Yet here I was once again, trying to obtain something by inflicting pain on myself. I did this mentally too; criticizing and demeaning myself in the false belief that these admonishments would get me to be the woman I thought I should be.
Lying on that table, as tears rolled down my cheeks I asked aloud, “shouldn’t the way to peace and happiness be peace and happiness?” All of my life I’d adhered to the ‘no pain, no gain,’ insanity. I followed the false belief of mass consciousness that anything worth doing must cause some pain or discomfort to the one executing it. That in fact, this very pain and sacrifice added to the worthiness of the end result.
I had an epiphany on that table; I realized that trying to get a positive result from a negative experience seemed insane. I would not put garlic and tomatoes in a baking pan and expect a chocolate cake to come out of the oven, so why did I believe that pushing myself and causing emotional or physical pain would result in the peaceful, joyful life I was seeking?
It can be argued that the roots of this started in my Catholic school upbringing, whose main selling points are suffering and self-sacrifice, but this belief is not exclusive to Catholics.
Why do you suppose it is that we never see the easy, joyful way as the best way to achieve things? In fact, if something is too easy we exaggerate how hard it was lest we be deemed unworthy of it. People love to talk about how hard they worked for something; but if it comes easy they and everyone else question their worthiness of it.
For me this belief is tied into my desire to find my version of God, or the Divine, (I’m still trying to find a name that feels right) and my programming that tells me that this Indescribable being, Creator of all, requires postulating, self-denial and flogging as an entry fee into a life of Union with it/him/her.
I’m getting better at noticing when I fall into my old habit of suffering and sacrifice. I’m trying to ignore the incessant voice of fear that tells me I’m doing it wrong if I step off the path of blood, sweat and tears and trust I’ll be guided to right action without having to offer my pound of flesh. I am becoming more aware when something is causing me physical or emotional pain and respecting that pain as a signal that whatever I’m doing is not right for me.
Something deep within me is telling me that choosing joy, choosing the easier, gentler way will bring even greater results than the ones I’ve been seeking. I have to pay close attention to what’s inside of me, because this Source within knows where I’m going and the best way to get there. Nobody else is an authority on my life. Only the heart within me is my ultimate guide. And I’m beginning to learn how to trust it.