In the stillness (Chronic Pain Series)

I started this post back in February when I was attempting to build a morning routine which included stretches. Then Covid 19 hit and even though I was working from home, my morning routine fell apart before it became, well, routine. Now a sprained foot has prevented me from taking my long, daily walks so I’m back on the mat so to speak. And I’m actually grateful for that.

Be(ing) Still.

I hated ’em.
I would literally make any excuse to avoid them. Laundry. Paying bills. Dusting. Facebook scrolling. Even cleaning the bathroom or making phone calls.
Yeah, I ‘d rather do almost anything than my physical therapy/ restorative yoga stretches. The stretch routine was a lengthy process. It began with exhausting as many means of procrastination as I could create. Next came the long sigh as I unrolled the pink exercise mat and baptized it with lavender oil to override the assaulting rubber aroma. Then, at a pace rivaling the one at which toddlers get their pajamas on, I changed into my workout clothes – the shorts that are practically worn through in the seat and a lose fitting tee Next, I wandered through the house again, ostensibly to fill my water glass. On the way I would water the flowers. Put a couple of books away. Fold a blanket.
Total avoidance.

It isn’t just my lack of coordination, physical grace, and flexibility that fanned my animosity with the stretches.
It is that they require stillness.
And concentration.
I’m more of a constant motion species. A constant-motion-and-short-attention-span kind of gal. When I think about doing the stretches, my brain shouts that a three mile walk with music blaring is so much more productive than lying on a mat, quiet, barely moving.
But my brain lies.
Healing cannot arrive without stillness. Action needs to be prefaced with listening.
I’ve discovered in my constant-motionness, my busyness, my get ‘er doneness, that the needs and distress cries of my muscles, joints, and veins are silenced by the roaring of accomplishment and activity .
Until they begin to shout louder.
I’m a slow learner.
Remember Otto, my chronic pain companion? Yeah, the one that arrived after some brutal life moments. He likes quiet. Stillness. Deep breathing.
When I decided to shake hands with Otto back in January, it meant it was time to stop fighting and start listening. One of the whispers that I finally heard was be still. Do the stretches that the doctor recommended and listen to your body. That’s really where the internal healing begins, where much of the work is done. I made a feeble attempt.

But there is only so much time in the day. I always chose walking over restorative yoga stretches. I have been an almost daily walker for longer than I can remember. Probably because the physical action of walking is one that can be done mindlessly, with music blaring. As I be-bopped my familair path, I was burning calories, getting my cardiovascular exercise in (and causing folks to cross to the other side of the path long before social distancing was a thing.) I was active. But it wasn’t helping the chronic pain issues. Stillness was required for that.

Be still. Stretch and breathe and pause and listen.

I need to follow this principle on more than just a physical level. First with my spirit, and then my soul, and finally with my body. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 tells me that wholeness – which I desire for myself and others – includes all three parts. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the comintg of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Spirit, soul, and body.

Spiritual Stillness

My worldview is a biblical worldview. That does NOT mean I am against anyone who disagrees with this. It means I try to live out my life based on God’s spirit dwelling within me. But I can’t live out what the Spirit speaks unless I quiet myself and listen. Far too often I jump on something because I think it is right or someone insists it is right without listening to what God is speaking to me. Sometimes I cater to fear. Sometimes I just plow on with my own plan-of-action. These instances never bring about God’s peace or glory. Psalm 46: 10 says “Be still and know that I am God.” Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells me “there is a time to keep silence and a time to speak.” It is wise to spend time in prayerful stillness so I know when to speak, when to take action.
1 Corinthians 14:1 says “Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts…but especially propehsy.” Verse 3 defines prophesy. “But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.” My goal whenever I “speak” should be to build others up (edification), challenge them to truth (exhortation) and comfort. And I cannot do that without first listening.

Soul Stillness

This, perhaps, is even more challenging for me than spiritual stillness. My soul – my mind, will, and emotions – likes to run on autopilot. It can be scary and painful (and freeing and exhilerating) to examine what I am thinking and feeling. But my thoughts and beliefs lead to emotions, and my emotions lead to actions and behaviors. Thus I “become” what I think. The mind is one of the greatest tools God has given us. It is why we are told in 1 Corinthians 10:5 that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (of the world) but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. What we think matters. But most of us don’t ever think about our thinking. It is important to slow down, examine our thoughts on a deeper level. This takes disicpline and time, but it is possible to retrain the mind which impacts the body.

Body Stillness

(Have I mentioned how much I dislike being physically still?) When the doctor’s office returned the verdict about my foot, telling me that sprains take 3 to 8 weeks to heal and I needed to stay off it, well I wanted to cry. But I took some time to be still spiritually and sensed God reminding me that He works all things for my good because I love Him and am called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Then my soul became still and I took my thoughts captive, examining the reason why I felt a need for constant activity. I realized perhaps there were other things my body needed rather than motion. This realization meant depression was not able to hijack my situation.

While my foot heals, I have returned to those dreaded stretches. I can’t say that I enjoy them as much as walking but Otto raises his hand to high five. Healing takes place in the stillness.

As soon my foot quits whining, I will resume my walks. But I will be sure to balance them with physical stillness as well.

Stillness and activity. They are both necessary.

Which one is most challenging for you?

Love and blessings,

Marie with a 🙂

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2 thoughts on “In the stillness (Chronic Pain Series)

  1. God is faithful and will bring you to the completeness you seek. Thank you for sharing your challenge, and the faith in which you walk through it!

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