Journey into the High Holidays with Amichai Lau-Lavie, founder of Storahtelling and the spiritual leader of Lab/Shul. It’s a daily dose of inspiration to get you focused and ready for the new year, featuring daily intentions, simple tasks, and tools for living better.
The toothache started about two days ago, gentle at first. By Saturday night, though, it had upgraded from nagging ache to actual pain. With it came the harsh reality check that I haven’t been to a dentist in at least a year. Never mind the reasons—trips to Israel, not having medical insurance that also covers dental, the list continues—there’s always an excuse for why we don’t take care of our bodies as well as we should. (And if anybody knows of a good dentist in New York City who accepts Aetna, please let me know ASAP.)
So, on Saturday night, I did what I could: I went online to read about pain management, and how pain affects our mind and our soul. I particularly liked this quote from Marcel Proust:
“Illness is the doctor to whom we pay most heed; to kindness, to knowledge, we make promise only; pain we obey.”
It’s day five of Prepent, and I’m focusing on the body, reflecting on what I can do to be in better shape inside and out. In doing so, I’m reminded that pain, whether we like it or not, can be a portal to understanding the changes we need to implement in our lives. Too often though, we choose to look the other way, pretending our discomfort is unrelated to our choices and our actions.
Then again, I have friends dealing with chronic back pain, migraines, and cancer-related ailments, whose pain is real and constant, and for whom relief is a daily challenge. It’s harder to make spiritual meaning of such great ills, especially while they’re happening, but I do believe that in some way all pain exists to help us reach a higher level, if only we can discover how. It’s like Carl Jung said: “There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”
For me, right now, the toothache is a wake up call, a reminder to make sure that I‘m taking good care of my body, and taking the time to review my health by myself: what’s hurting, what needs attention, where are the pains—and, if possible, why are they occurring? This is not the time for neglect or avoidance. I’m reminded of a quote from my favorite meditation teacher, Sylvia Burstein: “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”
I want to suffer less this coming year. I’m starting the new week by scheduling doctor’s appointments and making sure my body knows: I’m heard, I’m taken care of, and I’m loved. Thank you body for working so hard. Sorry for neglecting, but I’m on it now.
Follow along with the Scroll’s daily Prepent series here.