One of the reminders of an auto accident I had some ten years ago is an occasional stabbing upper back pain up under one of the shoulders. When it begins to cramp up, it inevitably means that I will endure this tight hot spot for a couple days.

Recently, I was at a healing event in group meditation.  Since I was sitting, I was able to detect the first tiny, almost in-perceivable warning tingle up under my right shoulder. Then it came on again, and I recognized my old friend–or enemy–coming for a visit.  I immediately detested this visitor, fearing the inevitable pain ahead.  But then I took a breath, and said hello to this sensation.  I pondered, “What was the emotion or feeling I was experiencing when I felt that first tingle?”  It was judgment, as I was judging the host of this gathering. Hmmm.

I sat with the feeling of judgment, along with the feeling which was intensifying in my back. I breathed into it, and realized that resistance, fear and anger were also early reactions to this back pain. I was afraid of not being able to sleep for the next night or two as the pain would surely intensify; it always did.  And then the familiar anger and frustration; the accident was not my fault.  Why should I still be in pain years later, still paying healer bills out of pocket.  I felt the familiar snowball or resentment heading downhill, and the hot spot burned deeply.

But then I returned to the breath, and asked myself, “Does it have to be this way?” I decided to try doing something different.  I breathed into the pain, and talked to it. “I’m so sorry you have suffered so long, and I have not been able to stop your pain. Thank you for all you have done to contain my pain . . . ”  I accepted this pain, and somehow found some neutrality. Over the next hour or so, I felt the ebb and flow of the pain, deepen, and release, harden and soften, hot, then cool down . . . Every time my body tightened up and I expected the worst, I took a deep breath and allowed, witnessed, honored, accepted . . .

After about two hours, the pain went away completely! This had almost never happened before. Rather than an enemy from hell, this pain was a gift from heaven, a friend who simply wanted my attention so it could tell me, teach me about feeling and honoring my emotions, about acceptance, nonresistance, attention, and presence.

How many of our wounds are such gifts, just creating pain to get our attention? Could it be that the bigger the pain, the bigger the gift and lesson, and therefore the bigger the reward and opportunity? The more challenging the pain, the greater chance to release some long held belief, story, trauma or pattern. When we come out of the mind and into the body and the sensations of the present moment, there is no “problem.” We can liberate ourselves, one compassionate, attentive breath at a time.