Today, I had (as Oprah would say) an aha moment. Today, the pieces of the puzzle I’ve been working on finally started to fit. Today was the day that my narrative shifted from, “I am in pain,” to “I am healing.” Today was the turning point.

I’ve never doubted that there is an emotional component to back pain; I just haven’t understood it. And while something may have gone physiologically haywire in my back on April 23rd while I was innocently eating dinner in a restaurant in Palm Springs, I now see that my fear has been the main culprit in exacerbating the situation. As soon as I got home from Palm Springs, I saw my Chiropractor. He said, “Hopefully it’s just a tweak. But the worst case scenario is that you’ve herniated a disc.” Looking back, that was all it took to start the engines of anxiety turning in mind. Of course, I instantly googled “herniated disc,” and my fear grew. Then I talked about it with people, and you’d be surprised by the number of people out there who have herniated discs. The response I got from everyone, unilaterally, is that it never goes away. You just have to learn to live with the pain. My fear grew. Students in class told me that they take muscle relaxers and pain killers before they do yoga. And my fear grew greater. My pain got worse. I saw my doctor, and without doing an MRI, he confirmed it, “You have a herniated disc.”

Long story short, I bought into all the hype. My fears grew to the point where I was debilitated with fear. At my worst moments, I imagined a life where I was crippled from pain. My career was over. I’d lost the ability to do all the fun things I love in life. I’d become a burden to loved ones. You name it, the mind can play horrible tricks on even the staunchest of Yogis. But meanwhile, grace was still flowing, and the seeker in me chose to embark on a spiritual quest. Three books came into my life. First, “Steering by Starlight,” which I’ve already mentioned numerous times. Second, “You Can Heal Your Life,” by Louise Hay, which is deeply inspiring and empowering. The third book, “Healing Back Pain,” by John Sarno, brought the picture together.

In the book, Dr. Sarno, a mind/body medical doctor, illuminates the entire range of emotional underpinnings for back pain. What interested me the most in his thesis, however, was his take on the impact of fear on mental conditioning. For instance, if you have a pain in your back when you sit down, like Pavlov’s dogs, you begin to associate sitting with pain. Soon, you avoid sitting out of fear, and every time you try, you inevitably have pain. The conditioning grows stronger. When I read this in the book, I felt as if he were speaking to me. Up until today, I hadn’t sat for almost a month–convinced that sitting was the most painful position.

Long story short, today I decided that I would recondition myself. First: Stop saying, “I am in pain.” I put up notes with my new mantra, “I am well,” all over my house. Second: Start sitting and say, “I am healing. I am so grateful I can sit again. I am grateful I can get in my car again and drive.” I am proud to report that I sat for a good 2-3 hours today, most of the time pain-free. I just kept repeating my affirmation, and I was fine. I drove all over town, and I was fine.

Tonight a friend asked me, “How could you let that happen to you? What about all your training in Yoga and Buddhism?” Truthfully, my training has never been so put to the test. But I did not give up. Who knows why we are given the unique challenges we each must face. All I know is that the lotus blossoms out of the mud, and I am so grateful that my personal flower is beginning to grow!

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