The Power of Silence


Pain is a teacher that nags at me when I don’t pay attention. I never really experienced unrelenting pain until I was brought to my knees by Fibromyalgia in 1999. It started out as a simple awareness of discomfort in my arms and grew into an unrelenting pain that shot through all my muscles and organs announcing brokenness, gashes, and surely documentable conditions that would warrant a cast, a crutch, a remedy.


Fibromyalgia to me is a mimicking disease. It states its presence and then disappears for another day. It travels throughout my body without giving me the courtesy of its itinerary.


Gratefully, this traveling bandit has quieted down over the years as I shaved back my lifestyle to silence. Not a silence that gagged my spirit. A silence that stilled me long enough to listen. It’s been 20 years.


I learned silence in all my choices, an empowering silence that allowed me to observe and understand my needs, my wants, my opinions. I discovered I was crying on the inside most of the time. I discovered I never listened to what I had to say, often abandoning myself, siding with the crowd of those I felt abandoned by. I discovered my emotions were eating me and I was reacting mindlessly. I believed my fears were the truth. I discovered I was my own bully.


I was forced to stillness by pain. Day after day I was a prisoner in my body. Day after day I existed on the living room couch and surrendered. That was my agenda. With professional help, I managed the pain, managed my needs, managed my humility and surrendered.


Over my 40 plus years, I had adopted many compromising ways to exist that my spirit felt twisted. One by one I found these knots and negotiated their release, whether it was food, sleep, communication, education, play and prayer. I sorted through it all and found silence was my friend.


As I look back over these 20 years, I realize in the beginning silence felt like my enemy. A stranger disrupting my existence that wouldn’t go away. I wanted the familiar. I wanted my life back. I wanted to be freed back into my dysfunction. Acceptance brought me the knowledge that Fibromyalgia is a teacher in my life. Still showing up when I overdo, it comes to visit again. I’m surprised to see it sitting there quietly waiting for me to notice it’s back. Will I pay attention to its presence again?


The answer is always yes. My self-worth is tied up in lessons of pain. My self-worth is in the mirror waiting for me to pause for a moment and say ‘I love you’ and ‘I’m here for you.’My self-worth continues to grow as I remember to practice self-care, awareness, use my resources navigating through challenges and practicing silence.


“The wound is the place where light enters you" - Rumi

What Our Pain Can Teach Us (full poem here) by Kerry Fantelli

Sorrow, hurt, pain

Can all be gifts.

They open you to feel,

allow the rawness of your days to be fully lived

electric skin

sensitive eyes, tender mind, open heart.

Pain works as a crow bar.

Yes, that sounds harsh

but it sure does pry you open

exposing raw parts that long to be soothed.

Without it, you may remain hidden, closed

walled off to the world of feeling, of love.


…Facing our pain is the only way we can heal it.

Walk the path that moves us from one place to another,

a place that is softer, kinder

more familiar, yet different at the same time.

It brings us back to the core of who we are

What we stand for

And what we cannot stand

Knowing that we are stronger than pain

Every single time.


Participants’ Reflections:

  • Thank you for the lovely reading and the reminder that challenges and opportunities come as gifts. I wanted to share that today is the anniversary of my mom’s passing from this life. All the emotions that come up or do come up are invitations. I miss her and love her.

  • I wanted to talk about my arthritis in a similar vein as your fibromyalgia. I got rheumatoid arthritis when I was 22 years old. My way of dealing with it was to deny and ignore it. It still hurt but I would just ignore it. If someone asked me if my knee hurt that day, I had to think about it because I wasn’t aware of when it hurt and didn’t hurt. I like your idea that the fibromyalgia and arthritis are teachers. When it flairs up, it usually has to do with stress or I’m too busy or whatever. There is usually a message there that I had a tendency to ignore. It’s a good reminder that it is there for a reason and one should listen. And I am going to listen to my arthritis and go to yoga.

  • I also reflected on the silence as really the opportunity to take in more fully myself and to acknowledge what I might need that I am distracted from or deny or ignore, whatever creative ways I find until they don’t work. I think the thing that is commonsense to me, in my reflection, is that we are not just our bodies. Our body is a messenger and it is a functional structure for us. If you are going through anything, there are the spiritual and emotional elements to it. One can’t just assume that you needn’t pay attention. For my teeth, I have to brush and floss. There are a lot of different things to keep oneself afloat in life. There are many layers.

  • I often feel funny saying anything in the group when so many members have suffered so much more and over a longer period of time than I. But I am hurting today. I’ve been studying the timetable of how long it will take to roll out the vaccine, and how much we have suffered already. I wonder how much longer our reserves can last. We’ve been drawing them down. I’ve been doing what I can, with meditation and exercise and trying to eat well in order to build up my reserves. But they are sadly depleted. Today, I experience good stress which is still stress. I had a training so that I can work remotely which is great relieving me of the anxiety of interacting with people with Covid. But there are so many procedures and it’s the Christmas season and the supplies will be inadequate due to Covid and gift-giving. There’s going to be disappointment. It was hard to get going this morning. I could use support today.

  • I encourage you to listen to your words because you are setting yourself up using words that represent overwhelm and fear. Even if you put a sign up saying “I am feeling confident” or “One step at a time,” just to remind you. Words are very powerful. It may sound simple and silly, but it does work. We hold on to this community, we may be overwhelmed and we may have meltdowns. The key is to keep coming, keep coming back, back to ourselves.

  • A year ago I was diagnosed with afib. I’ve been working with alternative ways to deal with it. I just got this HeartMath biofeedback device and I started using it during the meditation. I had quite a meditation this morning. They say to focus on your heart and breathe through your heart and fill yourself with loving feelings. It’s about creating coherence in your body. During the meditation, I went into a deep place where I was sitting on a beach with a fire, sitting with my higher power and I welcomed in all the people I have loved over time, most of who have passed. I sat with them. I went into a deep place. It felt wonderful. Your reminder of fibromyalgia to focus on my body helped. I know the afib is telling me something.

  • Thank you. Where I went in my meditation was the transitions and transformations that can be painful. I went to the children I birthed. I had home births. I was there, not medicated. What a difference it made when I surrendered to the pain. Just relax, look at it as good pain, which is easier to do in a situation where you are birthing. I also went to the transition when I was with my husband and he died. That transformation, that was more of an emotional pain, a letting go and surrendering. Being with him as he was letting go and surrendering. That was the message for me today. Surrendering and letting go.

  • Thank you. Talking about pain is a good reminder for everybody to be compassionate to other people. People don’t always talk about their pain, whether it’s physical or emotional, we just don’t always know when people are in pain. Just being compassionate is good.

  • There is an organization called Suffering the Silence. It supports chronically-ill people who visibly don’t look chronically ill. all the assumptions based on their appearance are harmful and painful. It’s an incredible support group. We are all carrying something.

  • Thank you so much for sharing your hearts, whether you spoke or not. Thank you for listening, for spending time in honor of your worth. I encourage you all to pay attention to the power of words because words can move us into a frenzy or words can move us into calmness and assurance. I wish you all a well day.


Photo credit: Alejandro Pinero Amerio https://unsplash.com/@vjgalaxy

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