When the Present Moment is Filled With Physical Pain Because of Illness

Q: Dear Todd, I’m dealing with a physical injury that’s taken my mobility, I try and be positive about healing my legs every new day but my reality is that I sit isolated and alone consumed with SO much fear. I listen to/watch as many positive and uplifting things as I can to keep this at bay. Sometimes I find something which temporarily shifts my mindset and gives me hope (and I’m grateful for that) but I’m always stumped when I hear people say that anxiety and worry are about the past and future and that “it doesn’t exist in the present moment”. When you are consumed by pain, anxiety, and fear are absolutely about the present moment. It’s all one can focus on when there’s pain present in the body. I wonder why this is never mentioned as for so many people the present moment is filled with physical pain they must endure..how can we make sense of the present moment being free from fear or anxiety or worry when there is pain present?

TODD ANSWERS: You are absolutely right that not all suffering stems from the past or future. Sometimes this moment is just a big pain in the butt! However, I will just say that there is a difference between pain and suffering. We will all feel pain in our lives — those electrical signals that tell our brain something is not right.

But suffering is how we respond to pain. Is our reaction to pain conscious and calm, or unconscious and resisting? Are we fearful that we won’t get better in the future? Or are we simply allowing the sensations in this moment to be? These are choices we can make. You no doubt have a very difficult challenge you are facing and I wish you all the strength, patience and positivity.

While there is a place for modern medicine, we also know that many spiritual practices have been proven to lessen our experience of pain. Some dentists use meditation techniques as an alternative to anesthesia. Some Buddhist monks can withstand grueling physical conditions by simply practicing observing physical sensations without reacting to them. We know that the calmer and more relaxed we are, the faster our bodies can heal. So give yourself plenty of time to deal not just with the pain but with the mind as well. Meditate, walk through nature, whatever you can to create peace in your life.

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