Monday, June 26, 2017

When Enlightenment Hurts

Have you ever wanted to do something or thought things yet weren’t really able to take the action required?  Until something happened and made it so you kind of ‘had to’?

I have a friend/colleague ~ Raven Dana ~ who introduced me to the phrase “brick to the head enlightenment”.  I love this! 

As I reflect on my own life, I can think of an example or two. 

The first time was my unhappy marriage.  I had some clear ideas that this was not the man for me.  If am totally honest, I knew before the wedding, I just didn’t know how to not marry him.   We were not a match in any kind of satisfying way, and long story short two years in I got sick.  I was in the hospital for 10 days, and when I came out, within a few months, we separated.  I wish I had the communication/self-awareness skills I have now back then, because I feel sad when I think about how we broke up.  I did the very best I could, wanting to be fair, and friendly, and yet it was one of the three most challenging experiences of my life.  But, I digress.  The point of the story is that I was unhappy and stuck and I got sick!
I had cholecystitis.  Gallbladder disease.  So painful.  I suffered for years, and finally had it surgically removed.  People talked about the idea of holding feelings in as being part of what might create such a condition, which is what I did for most of my relationship with my husband. 

The enlightenment came because my first thought was after being diagnosed, “This is something that happened because of my choices.  I did this.”  Almost instantly I changed my diet, stopped smoking (yes, I smoked) and left my marriage.  The 10 days of my hospital stay was my ‘brick to the head’.  I will spare you the emotional trauma of my hospital stay.  It was enough to realize, I will die if I don’t speak up, if I don’t take care of myself.  It was what I needed before I could take action, even though I knew what action needed to be taken years prior.

Recently, I had another experience of “forced mindfulness”.  One thing that was/is distinctly different is how much gratitude I have for the ‘help’.  So much gratitude.

I took a train to visit my boyfriend Steve.  13 hours.  When I got to his place, I noticed some pain in my low back.  By the end of the day, I was barely able to move.  Without pain that is.  And it got worse from there.  I don’t remember having back pain like this ever before, and we were busy that weekend, so I was feeling all kinds of scared.  Long story short…I got to take a sleeper car home (very cool ~ ask me about it!) and upon my arrival home, taking care of myself was my number one priority. 

Here’s the thing…I had been saying that I wanted to prioritize my well-being for 1.5 years, knowing I wasn’t well, and didn’t seem to be able to actually do it.

With the amount of pain I was in, I literally (not literally, really ~ but close) had no choice.  Every move was deliberate.  My body (the universe?) had created a condition that I was able to actualize what I had been hoping for.  Pain was not pleasant, yet kept me honest with my choices.

After one month the pain mostly dissipated.  In a weird way, I felt afraid.  I wanted the pain to keep me focused.  And, I didn’t want to hope for pain, so I chose to remember the pain.  Act as if.   So that is what I have been doing.  I am remembering the choices I made when I was in pain and continue to do those things.  In my case, take walks, stand and lie down ~ reduce sitting to almost never. 

It is now two months.  I am still able to remember.  I can move much more now, yet I am listening much more closely to my body signals.  Certainly there are whispers of ‘you are sitting too long’, or don’t bend down quite like that. 

Say This Not That (to yourself):

Next time you find yourself in pain ~ physical or emotional… 
  • You might consider what is your circumstance?  What is your body asking you for more (or less) of?
  • Check out the stories you immediately are telling (asking) yourself.  Is this going to last forever?  Why am I being plagued with this?  What the hell is wrong with me?  Why did this have to happen now?  
    • Now, take some time to actually answer the questions.  I’m guessing there is some valuable information if you take the time to listen.       
  • Consider the ways you can incorporate some new/old/different habits into your life? 
    • Have you been thinking that life is hard and people don’t support you in a way that you would like?  Now might be a good time to ask for the support you need.
    • Have you been longing for rest and didn’t know how to get it into your schedule?  Is this the ‘excuse’ you have been looking for?  Start saying more effective no’s and yeses.

Don’t let the bricks keep hitting you and piling up!  Take the brick ~ and the message it is delivering ~ and put it in a safe place.


  1. I think I have justified using my bricks as a fortress around myself. I guess the need there would be for safety, but I'd rather feel safe without all my bricks!
    GREAT blog, Ter!! ❤️

    1. I have thought of my anger like this. Maybe you will relate to what I am saying as close to your experience of the bricks/fortress. I remember one of the first times I didn't get mad at something that happened, something which would usually get me all riled up. In the moment, I kinda felt scared, unsafe in a way, almost lonely. As I thought about it more and more, the thought occurred to me that my anger (or my angry self) was something I could count on to 'protect' me. A different kind of fortress maybe?

  2. Hi Terrie, I really enjoyed this article. Thanks for sharing. I didn't know many of these things about your past! The theme reminds me of the recent experience I had rushing, literally running, through Boston's airport with my luggage to try (unsuccessfully) to reach my connecting flight. I felt my knees start to speak to me, telling me to move more carefully - to maybe slow down and just accept that I was going to miss the flight, and I could relax and take my time. But I went along rushing, getting more and more stressed. Luckily there isn't lasting pain, but I realized that I had added a lot of unnecessary stress to my life. My body had the wisdom to try to get me to slow down, I just hadn't listened. Good lesson. XO

    1. Yes. I will be including my life more and more in what I write. And, I love hearing your story. I think many of us want to unlearn what our culture has taught us to value. We long to be more true to ourselves, our feelings, yet we have little models of or support for 'missing a plane, being late, taking our time' in your example. Or course you have left out of your story whether or not you actually made your connection (both to your knees, and to your connecting flight). I hope you will share here!

  3. Thank you Terrie, I enjoy your personal stories. It a good reminder for me to put myself first emotionally and physically. As a healer, myself, I'm no good to anybody if I don't prioritize self-care and self-love. This also models for my clients the kind of lifestyle I am trying to teach. I have so much respect for a health and wellness practitioner that walks their walk and models good health themselves. You do this in so many ways. Thank you!