How Phyllis got off pharmaceuticals

Phyllis was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. She also had thyroid issues, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. At the most, she was taking 12 different pharmaceuticals.

Besides reversing her diabetes (to read that story, start with Part 1 here or read this summary), she got off all her prescription meds.

Getting off medication is a taboo in many people’s minds. Once prescribed a medication, they believe that they have to take it for the rest of their life because their condition is irreversible. They believe that no longer taking a medication would be disobeying a doctor’s orders, and doctors are like God.

Medications can be extremely helpful, even life-saving. Byetta made a major difference for Phyllis. Yet it turned out she only needed it for a while, until her body became healthier and less resistant to insulin.

If you are in doubt about whether you might ever be able to go off a medication, ask your doctor if lifestyle changes can make a difference. Continue reading

Day 19 of The Work: Do you believe life should be free from pain?

This Tricycle Daily Dharma quotation reinforces Byron Katie’s work:

We suffer because we marry our instinctive aversion to pain to the deep-seated belief that life should be free from pain. In resisting our pain by holding this belief, we strengthen just what we’re trying to avoid. When we make pain the enemy, we solidify it. This resistance is where our suffering begins. ~ Ezra Bayda, “When It Happens to Us”

Next time you’re feeling emotional pain, I invite you to examine whether a “should” is involved. “Shoulds” are always beliefs, as far as I can tell.

Imagine (that is, make up stories about) what you believe should happen.

Now think about what you believe shouldn’t happen, and create two stories. In one, imagine having no resistance to what shouldn’t happen. Just let it unfold and witness it. In this scenario, if there’s pain, there’s pain, but there’s no drama or story.

Then create a worst-case scenario, complete with lots of drama and a compelling story!

Just see if you can do this. Now you have three options.

The point is, how much do you add to your own suffering? Without the story, the pain can just come and go, and that’s it. It hurts. You move on.

How we got the idea that life should be free from pain is something to be curious about. It seems to me that if you have a nervous system, pain is inevitable. (Although I have gone to great lengths to avoid it myself!)

Day 17 of the Work: turning around question 6

There is one last turnaround in Byron Katie’s The Work. This one is sometimes overlooked. Back on Day 1, I filled out the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet. Question 6 asks:

What is it in or about this situation that you don’t ever want to experience again?

I responded:

I don’t ever want to feel so disconnected, frustrated, and helpless about someone I care about [as I did with my father].

Question 6 has its own turnaround, which is:

I am willing to feel as disconnected, frustrated, and helpless about someone I care about [as I did with my father].

I look forward to feeling as disconnected, frustrated, and helpless about someone I care about [as I did with my father].

Whoa. I definitely feel a lot of resistance. Those statements are not true!

So let me inquire more deeply. I’m going to consult my worn, autographed copy of Loving What Is and see what Byron Katie has to say about this turnaround:

This turnaround is about embracing all of life. Saying — and meaning — “I am willing to…” creates openness, creativity, and flexibility. Any resistance you may have is softened, allowing you to lighten up rather than keep hopelessly applying willpower or force to eradicate the situation from your life. Saying and meaning “I look forward to…” actively opens you to life as it unfolds.

It’s all there in the title of her book, Loving What Is.

So my understanding now is that it is entirely possible in my future that I will again feel as disconnected, frustrated, and helpless about someone as I did with my father. Do I know my future? No. So to resist a possibility in advance is to cut myself off from potential reality. What will happen will happen.

The truth is that if this does happen, I don’t have to respond the way I did in the past. I don’t have to fear it or repress it or even suffer at all. I can embrace whatever feelings arise and do inquiry on them if painful. I can embrace that person.

I can recognize the similarity with my old story about my dad and know this person is not him but could definitely have some similar characteristics (which sooner or later everyone will, because the common denominator is being human).

I can get fascinated with that.

I can even thank them for bringing me something to do The Work on.

Another approach to this statement is to ask question 3 again, “What happens when you believe that thought?” When I think about feeling like that in the future, I feel disgruntled, unwelcoming, armored.

I can not only let that thought drop me, I can embrace that possible future! It’s one of many!

Does anyone’s future hold only that which they want? Probably not. So get ready. Shit happens. I am willing to experience conflict, to feel pain and suffering, to be confused, even to be mortal and to die.

I am going to do those things anyway, so I might as well be willing.

I can even look forward to doing these things with as much serenity, acceptance, wisdom, and equanimity as I can muster.

~~~

I originally wrote this post two days ago, and then I lost it somewhere in the ether. So this is the second time I’ve written it. It was a struggle the first time, less so this time, and I got even more out of it by doing it again.

Pain and suffering: the distinction

Several people whom I follow on Twitter linked to this post, Does it hurt? Yes. Is that a problem? No.

Read it if you’ve ever wondered about the difference between pain and suffering. They’re not the same.

The title kind of gives it away, but it’s well worth reading anyway. Pain is inevitable because you have a nervous system. Pain is a form of communication. It lets us know to stop doing whatever caused it (if it is in our control — some pain is not), to seek safety, care, rest, healing.

Suffering comes from pain plus resistance. It’s the resistance to pain that causes suffering. If we could just surrender to pain, just let it wash through our awareness without judgment, it would leave more quickly.

But we judge and resist pain. “I don’t like pain.” “I hate pain.” “I fear pain.” “I shouldn’t feel this pain.”

Last year when I was just a couple of months into my practice of meditating for 30 minutes every day, my body hurt every time I sat. I kept expecting it to go away. My suffering was due to my belief that a sitting practice shouldn’t hurt.

When I checked in with my teacher, Peg Syverson, she said that pain is part of sitting. Every meditator faces this issue sooner or later.

Once I understood that pain was part of my body’s adaptation to the posture and that I might always experience some pain each time I sat, an odd thing happened. Or perhaps a natural and normal thing happened.

My body stopped hurting when I sat. The pain and the suffering both just left.

Interestingly, I’ve heard others’ stories about that: that the older you are, the more quickly your body adapts to sitting and the sooner you can sit without pain.

I suspect that in some cases, the opposite may be true. Habituation has a lot to do with it. Any new, prolonged activity that uses muscles differently than how you usually use them results in discomfort or pain.

Now it may be easier to do this with minor pain than major, but next time you feel some pain, get curious about it. Breathe slowly and deeply to relax, and feel it. Exactly where is it? Does it have a sharp boundary, or is it diffuse? What is the quality of the pain: is it dull, piercing, throbbing, steady, deep, shallow? How long does it last?

You may not feel joy, but you can rejoice in the fact that you can feel pain.

It means you’re alive.