Great Love and Great Suffering
Around age 18, my shoulder began experiencing severe instability, and eventually, frequent dislocation. If you’ve ever had a joint forcibly moved, pushed, or thrust out of its socket, you know the raw pain, terror, and adrenaline that accompanies it.
Six years of dislocations later, I decided enough was enough and had surgery to repair a “shredded” labrum. That was in 2016. After rigorous physical therapy, my shoulder was blessedly stable. I truly thought I would never dislocate my shoulder again.
But it happened on March 9. And again on March 11. Again on March 31. And again yesterday.
My laundry list of injuries in the last few years also includes: torn hip labrum, a slipped rib, two slipped lumbar vertebrae, and lingering back pain from two car accidents. And right now, all I can really do physically, is go for walks. Some days I can hike if my hip is up to it.
I promise the point of this post is not to throw a pity party for my injuries. But if you know me, you know that physicality - running, hiking, yoga, movement, dancing - is tightly woven in to the very fabric of who I am. Or, who I thought I was.
I do not feel great.
My whole body hurts.
I mourn my life as an athlete daily.
Many days I long to be in a different body, any body, other than this one that is so fragile and angry.
I hear my teacher in the back of my mind: “We are closest to God in times of great love and great suffering.”
I am suffering, and I am listening for her. (God, that is).
I hear God sometimes, when I get quiet enough. I see the way She is gently tapping on the window of my heart, asking me to open up. She’s asking me to consider trusting in the just right-ness of this moment. She’s asking me to examine the assumptions of how I thought my life would be (I was sure teaching asana was my calling) and instead open to the possibility that my calling is much greater and more different than I ever could have imagined. She’s asking me to stop thrashing and raging against the reality of my body, and to instead soften into my pain, anger, and panic. She’s reminding me that letting go is a constant practice that is preparing me for the ultimate letting go: Death.
Listen. It is lovely to access divinity, God, Love, the All That Is, etc., in times of Great Love. I know you know the feeling. Watching new life pour from a human during birth. Standing on a tall mountain feeling as expansive and vast as the view. Hearing “I love you, too,” for the first time, after taking the L-word leap. Do you know those moments? It’s like being pulled into something deeper, bigger, wider, and totally inexplicable, that widens your eyes and induces a feeling of, “Wow. Yes. Thank you. This belongs."
This width and breadth of divinity is available, too, in times of suffering. I have a harder time hearing it, feeling it, and remembering it’s there, when my emotions are much more difficult and upsetting: anger, loss, pain, blame, sorrow, or the like. I can get so wrapped up in the drama of the emotion that I forget this current of love is running within me, saying, “this belongs, too. Your anger belongs. Your pain belongs. This is a part of what it is to be fully human. Please do not forget that your pain is as sacred as your joy."
What are you thrashing against? What are you resisting with all your might? I want you to consider that love, sacredness, universe, Goddess, however you name the Big It, is there too, right inside the suffering, tapping on the window of your own heart, asking for your trust, attention, integration, and belonging.
If you’d like to embody this practice, you can use this Current of Love meditation. There is a brief talk, and if you want to skip right to the meditation, it begins at 6:49 and ends at 13:12. The meditation is a part of a workbook that will launch in the next few weeks which includes meditations, practices, and passages to nurture your inner life. If you'd like to stay tuned to the release of the workbook, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I love you,