What Has Pain Taught You?

Over a decade ago on a lazy Sunday, I caught the PBS Coleman Barks special on Rumi. Rumi was a 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic.  At the time, I was dealing with some personal challenges and was surprised by how much Rumi’s poem “The Guest House” connected with and moved me.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

 (The Essential Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks)

Now a decade later, I have found it to be comforting in times of difficulty and thought provoking in times of joy.   We have been given this gift called life not for wealth or personal satisfaction or even joy, but to simply experience what life offers us.

Business professional with back painThis concept easily applies to chronic pain.  It has taught me compassion and humility.  It has forced me to take a more proactive role in my health and in my life, to be more understanding of the challenges others face. More importantly, in looking back on the decisions I have made and how they contributed to where I am today, I am thankful for what this understanding has allowed me to teach my kids about nutrition and exercise so I can instill good habits in them early.

What has your pain taught you?  What unexpected gifts has it delivered to your door?  In the words of Rumi, be grateful for whatever comes your way, as “each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

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