Re-Design my Pain


Todd Sampson reminded me on ABC TV last night that I can Re-design my Brain when it comes to my chronic pain. The three principles that I should meditate on for ten minutes a day are:

 

  1. This pain will pass,
  2. The pain can’t hurt me, and
  3. This pain won’t stop my body doing all (or most) of what I want.

 

The first principle is for those times when the pain flares up and is an invitation to live in the present. It is a reminder that in the future, I won’t have this pain. The future may be after I have slept tonight. The future may be after I have pulled the emergency cord and taken a pain holiday by consuming what my GP calls any “uh-zepam” drug. The future may be the next general anaesthetic I will some day have. The future may be after my death. It doesn’t matter how rare the future or how far out into the future, just the fact that there is a future where the pain changes for the better.

 

This pain will pass. Hang on to that.

 

This pain can’t hurt me. If I break my arm and then lift a heavy suitcase, that will hurt me. But my constant companions, the pains in my back and feet are not the result of new tissue damage or broken bones. I don’t have to limp because of my sciatic legs. The pain is just there, and movement will not make anything worse. In fact, movement may make things better.

 

Better to move than seize up. This pain can’t hurt me.

 

My body, considering all the things that are wrong with it, works very well. I can feel the wind on my face and see the waves down at the beach. I can hear the magpies sing their joyful carols. I can embrace those I love, and set my grandchildren on my knee and take them riding in my wheelchair. I walk three kilometres five mornings a week. I enjoy three meals a day. I can sit and type and engage my brain and fingers setting devious crosswords and writing stories.

 

Yes, I do have to work around the limitations of mobility that pain imposes on me. But my body can do most of the things I want to do.

 

Whenever I begin to be distressed by my pain, I can remind myself of these three statements of fact:

  1. This pain will pass,
  2. The pain can’t hurt me, and
  3. This pain won’t stop my body doing what I want.

These devious affirmations will change my brain’s perception of pain, and I will carry on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earth Hour



Our Bible begins with an extraordinary poem of praise for the Universe which God creates for us. ‘In the beginning, God created…’ For the wonders of each day, Genesis claims, ‘And it was good.’ The lines of this poem sparkle with praise for light and dark, day and night, sun and moon and stars, earth and sea, plants and animals and for humanity.

The resources God provides are there for our use, but within God’s generosity there are limits: things should be used for the purposes God intends. There are some animals and plants which should not be used by human beings: the wild things are there to signal God’s life-giving fecundity. They, like everything else in creation, lead us to praise.

We notice Genesis 1 these days because we notice the world around us for the wrong reasons. Since the beginning of the industrial era, human beings have over-used the provisions God has made for us: water, oil, arable land, have all been gobbled up in a race driven by our greed. We now face a crisis as we number seven billion souls. Can we continue to feed ourselves? Will our industries collapse as the oil begins to run out? These are sobering questions.

On this Saturday night, March 31, we are invited to turn our lights and electrical appliances off for the hour 8:30 – 9:30 p.m. to mark Earth Hour. Cities, towns and households around the world have signed up for Earth Hour. It may be that the electricity we save by switching off is token; the purpose of Earth Hour is to invite us to reflect on our use of the world’s resources.

As Christians, we can turn off lights and television and go outside to revel in the wonder of the Universe in the night sky, to praise God for the generous provision God has made, and to confess our greed in using them.

Our confession will be a true confession as we then reflect on how we can amend our usage of power, oil, water and food and live with a smaller footprint on this wonderful planet.

More information about Earth Hour is at http://www.wwf.org.au/earthhour/

Reposted from Dunsborough Anglican Parish web-site http://www.dunsboroughchurch.com/)

Moshe at the Bush


***
Moshe squints as the feet
of the swirling mob raise ghosts of dust
in the desert heat.
He draws his kaffiyeh across his face.
The sheep continue to bleat,
and in the midst of their badinage
the horizon is shifting shape –
a shimmering blue mirage.

Moshe’s shaded eyes see the paradox.
The inside of everything is moving
in the dead still of the outside paddocks.
In the shifting shapes of ghosts, a bush burning:
its thermal motion outside, but within no turning –
just the Steady State. His Presence proving.

Sandals gone, veil on, Moshe hails the Shekinah:
for in the image of the shape-shifting Presence,
He is capable, even gifted, as you are,
of looking inward and outward. So Moshe assents
to being what he will be:
swirling ghost yet made of star.

***
Published in indigo:journal of west australian writing Spring 2009
***

Vignette IV on Peace


VIGNETTE IV ON PEACE.

Wading birds on leg extensions delicately pick their way through the thrice-salty shallows of the Rottnest lake as if fearful that the hyper-salinity might bite or burn it. They dip their long beaks quickly to harvest a shrimp or tiny insect. Gently they cross the shallows. This is home and they are at home. This is the eternal present of their lives, the way it always is.

We rarely see the massed take-off when they leave for Siberia.

We never see them feeding, breeding on the snowy wastes of the far northern hemisphere – equally their home.

We see only one moment. We see what is.

Vignette I of Peace


VIGNETTE I OF PEACE
The sun warms the western end of the shearing shed, and my back, leaning on the iron corrugations, soaks up the warmth.
Inside, rouseabouts shout, “Ho! Ho! Move up there!” and the shed rumbles with the penned sheep shuffling each other.
The diesel engine throbs on and on, and I hear it whine as a shearer engages the hand-piece on a long blow across the sheep’s back. The shouts of shearers and wool-classers are indecipherable sharp noises above the never-ending rumble. The shearing shed shuffles about on its footings; a machine at work.
But the warm wall, a smoke and a strong cup of tea in my hands, keep it at a distance. Moisture rises from the lush marshmallow plants. Yellow dandelions and green clover carpet the paddock in front of me. A bee buzzes lazily somewhere nearby and I drift drowsily in the afternoon’s warmth.

 

Suffering unto death?


The comment was only half in jest, and it caught me by surprise. “You sound disappointed that you weren’t diagnosed with bone cancer or blood cancer.” My answer was the sanctioned one: “I am disappointed that they haven’t found something that they can treat. I don’t really care what its name is.”

The truth is, there is a little part of me that felt disappointed when the scans and blood tests returned negative. Of course, that’s partly explained not as a death wish, but as frustration with my symptoms, which have been powerful enough on some days for me to think that death would be easier to bear than the pain.

But my friend made me wonder. During those days of waiting for results I did rehearse my reactions to the possible diagnosis of a fatal illness. The prospect that I would not have more years with Rae filled me with pain. The thought that, though I might live to see Clare’s wedding, I might not see the children she will have with James and watch them as babies, toddlers, children, adolescents and growing to adulthood, seared my heart. The idea that I would not be around long enough to see Brendan settled and happy troubled me deeply.

No, I am not disappointed. I want the chance of more life. But I hope I am also strong enough to face my mortality, and to wonder what that now means to me as a Christian. These last weeks have reaffirmed for me the stark fact that I will die, if not soon, then in the coming decade or two. And whatever I believe, I cannot escape the reality of nature: death is the end. We live, we die. Anything that might be beyond our life span would be a sheer miraculous gift of the Most High. Resurrection is by definition surprise.

It is many years since I believed (if ever I really did) in my continuing existence after death as an individual. I hope I have not given false comfort to people over the years that they will somehow be reunited beyond the ashes or the grave with their loved ones in some happy valley. This false but widespread belief is both arrogant and petty: Arrogant to believe that human beings are so important in the scheme of the Cosmos, and petty to think so poorly of God’s imagination.

By definition, “eternal” cannot be after anything. The word itself tells us that the grace of God operates not after our death, but beyond our life – out of time. As far as we can know now, eternal life is about the intensity with which we live in this too short space between birth and death. Eternal life is about our gratitude now. Eternal life is about intentionally taking time to be simply in the Presence of all that is.

Looking forward to some second-rate paradise after death will in fact take away from the joy and brilliance of living in the now.

Instead, we should be journeying within to discover the broad and marvel-filled country of our souls. Instead of yearning for a union with those whom we love in the past, we could be yearning for a greater quality of loving those we are given to love now.

I am not afraid of the darkness to come. The problem is that sometimes I am afraid of the brightness of the light here and now.

Planetary nebula NGC 2818