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Our Entangled Knots

I have never forgotten the power of pain.

Pain demands attention.

It’s hard to find silence when pain is present.

Pain takes energy to endure.

Pain promotes fear.

Fear makes pain worse.

After my Fibromyalgia diagnosis, I attended a pain workshop. I had endured a couple years of unrelenting pain, managing it with drugs and lifestyle changes and anything else I could figure out that would relieve me.

Surrendering to pain sounded like defeat to me and I wasn’t going to be defeated. My jaw set and my hands knuckled, I was not interested in befriending pain. It was my enemy. I met people who were fighting with pain like I was. I didn’t want to share my story and I certainly didn’t want to share my pain.

This past weekend reminded me again surrender does not mean giving up. Surrender does not mean defeat. Surrender is a powerful choice of acceptance. Surrender opens an empowering door.

I had my Covid vaccination on Friday afternoon and 24 hours later, though my reaction was mild compared to other stories I’ve heard, it was not fun. I surrendered to bed and to the TV.

I thought about surrender and the constant tug-of-war I had fighting against the currents of Fibromyalgia.

I learned through chronic pain that acceptance eased the intensity.

I learned through years of helping my daughter fight her terminal illness that my acceptance eased the intensity.

I learned by experiencing loss over and over that my acceptance eased the intensity.

I’d like to change the word “surrender” to the word “doorway.” Another doorway to open into a new direction. Turning my attention away from resistance towards the doorway of acceptance. Then the fight seems to lose its bite.

We all experience intolerable difficulties. Life is not easy, especially when the difficulties come to those we love. We feel helpless and hopeless. I remember living on the edge of exhaustion and constant chaos, and I remember finding layers of comfort in the insanity of my situation. Tiny little doorways granting me five minutes of comfort here and five minutes of ease there.

I remember fearing the constant years of pain and anguish would change my personality and I would lose myself. I have proven time and again I am still who I am, but with deeper compassion, expansive patience and a heart broken open to feel, see hear and know what truth is. Truth holds the power of love and though I can’t control circumstances, I can control my breath and I can control where I direct the love I feel and I can control the love I send to those around me.

How surely gravity’s law,

strong as an ocean current,

takes hold of even the strongest thing

and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing –

each stone, blossom, child –

is held in place.

Only we, in our arrogance,

push out beyond what we belong to

for some empty freedom.

If we surrendered

to earth’s intelligence

we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves

in knots of our own making

and struggle, lonely and confused.

So, like children, we begin again

to learn from the things,

because they are in God’s heart;

they have never left him.

This is what the things can teach us:

to fall,

patiently to trust our heaviness.

Even a bird has to do that

before he can fly.

Participants’ Reflections:

  • I’m overwhelmed by the wisdom in this group.

  • The reading this morning was so right on for me because I am in a ton of pain. I think I have a bulging disc, so no position is comfortable. I also have a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia so chronic pain is not a stranger to me. This level of intense pain on top of it, I do try to think about it as a doorway. I send it loving tenderness instead of running away. I send my body love and care, and I ask if this isn’t what I think it is, what else could it be? Like my body is loud and maybe it’s trying to tell me something and maybe there’s a doorway there, and maybe it’s an actual doorway into more awareness. I appreciated the time to really sit with it this morning.

  • Thank you so much. This was a very powerful thing to sit with and be with. One of the first places I went with was surrendering in the negative sense, in defeat, giving up. Wanting to be stronger by not surrendering. Then I realized that surrender is also the opposite. You can surrender to love and to play in different ways. That surrender isn’t good or bad. There’s the Serenity prayer, the courage to know what you can change and what you can’t change. So many times in my marriage, I didn’t want to surrender and then there’s a conflict. I have this flash of being out in nature and there’s a little creek and the water is going in this direction. I’m not going to be able to change that. I accept it and find another way through it, if it’s important to me. All those things came into my mind and my heart as I was sitting with it. It was very helpful to me.

  • What came to me during the meditation was, when I’m in pain, I think what makes it so painful is that I look ahead so far. Am I going to be in pain for the rest of my life? I have to come back to the refuge of my breath. What came to me today was ‘just for today, just for now, accept this.’ It makes it so much easier.

  • Projecting into the future can be a killer. The key is to bring myself back to the present where I am right now and not connect the dots to all the little islands ahead. It’s so important to remember.

  • One of the themes we have hit on so many times is the doorway. I took doorways as a literal thing instead of metaphorically. The other thing is about surrender in a more positive way, like being in a stream fighting a current rather than going with it. One of the highlights of my day is walking along the river. On days when the current is strong, I am so aware of that. There are little sticks poking out of the water and fighting mightily, everything else is going with the flow. One of the positive things about going with the flow is being part of the flow and aligning with the massive current.

  • That’s the word I thought of during meditation was alignment. I think stepping into the doorway of acceptance is having alignment with. Working with instead of working against.

  • I was struck by the phrase in the poem ‘knots of our own making.’ What a lovely resonate concept. To me, it says I tied those knots, I can let them loosen. I can figure out how to unknot them and be more open and not so tightly gnarled and focused. It’s a wonderful poem. Thank you.

  • I too loved that line about how we can rise up and instead we get entangled in knots of our own making. Thank you for this reading. Yesterday, we talked about acceptance and you took it to a deeper level. A great lesson. Many years ago, when I tried to fight my emotions, it was like the emotions would hit me like bricks and I was the wall. It was a losing situation trying to fight these emotions. what I learned instead was to just relax and let the emotions flow through me like the wind. They would come and they would go. It’s about acceptance, letting them in and letting them go away. It’s like what Attar talked about in the Valley of Knowledge, not attach good or bad to anything. Just accept it for just being. It all just comes and goes. It’s a way to live in acceptance.

  • Thank you for this space. I love this time we’ve had. It’s been so healing for me, just in this amount of time. I did a meditation on Friday and the word ‘surrender’ came up. I had a conversation with myself afterwards about what surrender really is. So this has been helpful for me. I talk about acceptance. I have to wrap my head around it. Acceptance doesn’t mean you have to like it. Two totally different things. I’ve had a lot of loss lately. Something I read that has helped me and stops me in my tracks when I’m resisting is ‘what is in the way is the way.’ That totally shifts my experience and allows me to surrender the best way I can.

  • Thank you for all of these things. I’ve never heard of looking at what feels like a blockage as a doorway or looking at pain as a doorway. That is fresh for me to consider and to include in my toolkit of how to deal with life. In the poem, it was talking about how plants accept gravity and work with gravity and then bloom. I’ve never put those two together before. It was an invitation into a doorway to flowing and becoming who knows what.

  • It reminds me of my daughter when she was fighting with her disease, people would say ‘you need to accept.’ I couldn’t. What I eventually discovered was when I truly accepted that it is what it is, I stopped fighting against her disease and I was more present and available to her, to me, to my family. I wasn’t fighting against it on top of helping her. That way I could help her more. I was astonished by the turnaround because I thought I was surrendering in defeat. Annihilation comes and that’s the end of all of us. It was exactly the opposite. I’ll never forget it. I use that with pain, with loss, and with doorways that don’t open.

  • Just being here with everyone is wonderful. I hear things that are so meaningful. I like the idea of the doorway. I think of all the pain my family member has and I’m having a lot of trouble with it because of not being able to do anything to help him. I find little ways of helping the excruciating pain he is in. I’m also having a hard time dealing with animals’ pain, the collective suffering of animals. I’d like to help the animals that are suffering out there because I feel it.

  • Thank you. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for listening. Thank you for spending time with yourself. Thank you for being gentle enough to honor your silence within. It is most important, no matter what is going on. I hope you all have an aware day. And every time you open a doorway, it’s a metaphor of acceptance. Having awareness is a wonderful thing.

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