Before I moved to Portland, I lived in Chicago and worked in a hospital as a therapist and group facilitator. If you read part one of my Origin Story (read it here), you’ll remember that I began meditating hard core and everything changed for me internally. When things change internally, things change externally. My depression disappeared and I landed an awesome job. Plus I was more humble and compassionate as a result of meditation.
I’d meditate religiously for about two hours a day for awhile and inevitably, my desire to sit would fade away. I found better things to do with my time, like sleep. Every time I stopped meditating, the depression would return. The intense loneliness would return. The sense that I didn’t belong anywhere would return. I would be mean and irritable with people. I would find reasons to hate my job even though it was the best job ever. I had total autonomy at the job and pretty much did whatever I wanted with clients. I had a lot of fun. However, every time I would stop meditating, I would have amnesia about how blessed my life was.
Every year for years, I cycled through sitting a 10-day meditation course, upholding a meditation practice, letting it slip away, becoming a bitch to myself and others, becoming fed up, and sitting a 10-day course. In fact during the second course I sat, I asked the teacher “how do I keep this going?”. His response was “you stop, you fail”. At the time, believe it or not, that response was very helpful to me. I had no interest in failing. Turns out, maybe it wasn’t the best way to talk to a fledgling student. I forgive him and myself for believing in failure and believing that I was a failure when I stopped meditating.
In 2010, life was moving along. I had a job. I owned an apartment in an intentional community. I became an avid cyclist. I was passionately vegan and all things urban homesteader. I was exploring my sexuality in different ways. Yet I felt empty. It seemed that without a man, I felt empty. During the second 10-day course, I met a man and we began a long distance love affair since he traveled a lot and he settled eventually in Seattle. I had no idea who he was yet I was into him hard core (a common pattern for me). I thought I scored high since he was a meditator.
I noticed something else happening...I developed chronic back pain. It was a new experience for me. I never suffered from chronic pain or illness before so this worried me greatly. The worry cycle led me to have many medical exams: MRI, XRAY, etc. They showed that I was structurally OK. Nothing was wrong with my body. I went to different healers: yoga teachers, massage, acupuncture, etc. I used cannabis, and pain killers. Nothing helped. I was frustrated, angry, worried, sad, annoyed, depressed, all of it. I blamed my job because I sat a lot. I didn’t want to be another sedentary person doomed to be sick forever. I knew about somatic symptoms from psychology so I began to explore and research emotional causes for pain.
A part of me didn’t want to believe in emotional causes for pain. I thought it was easier to fix myself medically even though I hated the medical establishment. I was at a crossroads again. Medication or meditation. I was banking on the latter.
The truth was glaring
I was falling deeper in love with the meditator man and we planned for him to stay with me for a week for my birthday. I felt ecstatic. He arrived and for a couple days it was bliss. We explored sexual intimacy and as time passed, my heart sunk. Something was very wrong. There were many ways we were not compatible and I tried to stuff it down. I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to mold myself to be with him. My back pain would appear and disappear throughout the week. On the final day of his visit we had an honest conversation and decided that we were not meant to be. I felt crushed and I felt my back pain return with a force. Anytime I denied my true feelings, the back pain would return. I filed that awareness away in my mind.
He left and my depression returned with a force. I cried nightly praying and wishing for a man. I blamed myself for choosing wrong again. I hated myself. I wasn’t done with him, though. He and I continued to stay in touch and he asked me to come to Seattle and sit a 10-day course with him. I intended to sit another course anyway and I liked traveling so I convinced myself that this was a good idea. I told him we were platonic and that it was a mini vacation and spiritual retreat for me.
I knew it wouldn’t be platonic. I arrived and we dove into sexual intimacy. There was so much wrong with the situation that I chose to ignore. So many red flags. I felt extreme anxiety inside me. He violated my boundaries constantly by not listening to my NOs and lying to me. I gave into him sexually believing I loved him. He was very wounded sexually from past trauma and I ignored this. As I write this, I feel a ton of compassion for him and myself. We both needed love so badly and we were both barking up the wrong trees to receive it.
Trust yourself first
My back pain was fierce as we embarked on the 10-day meditation course. How the fuck was I going to sit for 10 days in stillness with this pain? I thought it would be excruciating. It was. But not in the way I had imagined. It was a silent retreat and men and women were separated. During those 10 days, many demons appeared before me in my mind. I noticed how obsessed I was with him, looking for him all the time. We were in a stunningly beautiful place and the retreat was over new years. As days passed, I dove deeper into meditation, committed to working and practicing the techniques, and truths began to emerge. I began to hear a powerful, yet gentle, voice inside me.
The voice clearly stated trust yourself first. Leave this man to discover his own truth and return to your own. You don’t need him any longer to teach you. Something inside me shifted and I felt intense anger. Anger for trusting him and for not listening to my Self. I allowed the emotions to arise and I practiced equanimity: non-reaction. I felt my breath and sensations and allowed the emotions to pass in their own time. I didn’t hook into them. As expected, by the end of the retreat, I felt renewed, joyful, compassionate, and strong. I also felt incredible relief. My back pain completely disappeared! Holy shit, I thought.
I left Seattle. My friend and I spoke a bit upon my return home and he asked me to visit him again. I said that I didn’t want to be friends and that spending time with him would not happen. I felt strong again and this began my journey toward listening more closely to my body.
I was convinced without a doubt that emotions and my beliefs about myself, others, and the world were connected to experience of pain in my body. When I was listening to my self and loving my self by upholding my boundaries, pain disappeared. When I was being a pleaser and betraying myself (violating boundaries, not listening), pain was present and prominent. I also noticed that the pain was mostly on my right side. In Yoga, the right side is the masculine principle. (I would learn much later what that meant). Remember, I had no physical disorder and nothing was ever wrong with me medically.
Over the years, I began to practice this: locate the belief, the break in integrity, and how I’m being a pleaser >>> take right action by listening to my Self >>> the pain disappears (sometimes immediately).
This kind of listening to my body has served me until the present moment. I always examine my beliefs and where I am out of alignment in my truth when I feel pain in the body. It’s incredible!
The story doesn’t end here. My body had a lot to teach me and it had a lot of false beliefs and trauma to release. The next part of the Origin Story introduces you to one of my life’s most important paths: yoga. Choosing yoga was the first time I chose something entirely for pleasure. Up until yoga, my life was a series of pragmatic plans to lead me somewhere and to fulfill others’ dreams. Yoga placed me in mystery, into the feminine principle, although I tried to control yoga too with dire consequences. In yoga, I realized I was not sovereign over my choices. It wasn’t my highest self who was choosing my life’s path. Something else was steering. It took yoga and trauma to wake me up to the power of the Inner Critic, or ego.
What relationship do you have with pain and your body?
How does your body speak to you and alert you to self-betrayal?
I’d love to hear from you!
I love you fiercely!
Follow along in my adventure and choose your own toward freedom with the EPIC DIY Guide to being a Radical Pleasurist. Get it below!