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Releasing Pain in Copper Canyon, Mexico

With eclipses, blood moons, and mercury retrograde, many people are feeling a lot of shifts right now. My hope is that we all can enjoy the process and send love to the unpleasant moments. I have been playing with how to reduce the feeling of pain and learning to be okay with pain.

I just read an article explaining how when we experience pain, the neurons in our body send a message through the central nervous system that something wrong has been perceived. Therefore one could draw the conclusion pain generates from an ingrained belief that something bad is happening to ourselves. What if we could shift that belief and then decrease the sensation we call pain?

If we look back through history the moral standards of society continually change. We just made gay marriages legal in U.S. We now have equal rights for men and women and people of all skin colors in America when once we thought they should be treated differently. How commonplace is dancing today? Remember the movie Footloose exemplifying when there were bans on dance? What more of today’s paradigm will continue to shift as it constantly gets challenged? Have you ever changed your opinion about something? I certainly have!

When I took off for a year of backpacking around the world, the minute I crossed the border from U.S. to Mexico my whole paradigm shifted. I was having a drink with some of my new hostel friends the first night in a little city called Creel. Creel is one of the last stops before Copper Canyon in northwestern Mexico, which is supposedly four times the size of the Grand Canyon.

One guy explained that his trade of work involved computers. He planned to travel for a few months and then try and get a computer job in New Zealand. If that did not work out, he would find something else to do. He kept repeating, “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter,” as if that point needed to be ingrained within my consciousness.

I worked nonstop throughout high school and college to get a good job. I landed a perfect job as a Program Manager at Microsoft right out of college. Something about it very quickly did not feel right for me. After two years I quit to go on this backpacking trip since that was the only thing I knew I wanted to do in that moment. I budgeted myself for traveling maximum 12 months. Then assumed I would return to corporate life in U.S. maybe with a side job teaching yoga and Pilates.

I was so defined by having what was known as a high end career that I couldn’t imagine how my new friend did not need to define his entire identity around one career. Though his way of being seemed odd to me at the time, I did not forget his attitude.

This friend and I decided to hitchhike to the bottom of Copper Canyon, backpack through it, and take a train out the other side. Every moment of that trip was an adventure. One of the most pivotal moments was at the end of the hike.

After walking across a big river, our guide told us to walk ten minutes uphill to the nearby town and said goodbye. There someone would give us a ride to the next town where we would take a van to the train. This was midday in about 130 degrees Fahrenheit heat after hiking for three days without shower, and running out of food, yet stocked with water we had purified from the little brown water ponds. Since we were traveling for a long time our packs were twice the weight recommended for such an adventure. Luckily mules carried our packs up to that point. That extra load really hit us on top of the heat and our fatigue.

The ten minute walk uphill took us thirty minutes. Many people were sitting on the decks of their houses calling to us. Finally we realized we better go on one of those decks if we wanted a ride to the next town.

We did find a family who was willing to give us a ride in “un ratito,” meaning a little bit. After two hours of “un ratito’s” they finally drove us. It took five minutes to drive. We could have walked that too.

The poignant thing was the entire two hours we did absolutely nothing. At first we tried to converse with the family but we could not understand each other as their language at the bottom of the canyon was a little different than the Spanish we knew. I wanted to grab a book or something from my pack so I didn’t waste time doing nothing. My traveling companion insisted on being ready in a moment’s notice to jump in the back of their truck for the drive and I conformed.

There did not appear to be any agitation in any of them to do anything, read a book, have a conversation, study, sow… nothing. “Oh,” I realized, “maybe you don’t always have to do something every second of the day. Maybe all I live in is one paradigm and there are no rules to life.”

It completely cleared any tension I had with not following what I thought was expected of me. From that space I could enjoy and learn more from my travels. And then I was able to open myself up to take an entirely new journey into the realms of yoga bringing greater upliftment than I had ever felt.

So what if you redefined good and bad to reduce the amount of pain you feel? My guru Paramhansa Yogananda said, “Circumstances are neutral.” It is not so much the thing that happened that hurts but our perception of it.

If that does not work for you, use the experience of pain as a call for the pain and the cause of the pain, even if you do not know the cause, to be loved. This may sound silly but it is worth a try. Talk to the pain, its source, or yourself, and say, “I am sorry for your pain. I love you.” Maybe something only shows up in our life until we learn to fully love it.

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