Grateful Pain

“Much of your pain is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.”  Khalil Gibran

My dentist visits and toothaches have been my muse for a few of my blogs over the years. My teeth the bones in my head with their roots always feel significant in the greater scheme of things, metaphors and symbols and meanings to my present situations and teachers in staying awake.


Pain is a great teacher, and have heard said that pain reminds us we are alive. In my former life as a body worker in a variety of settings including working with people living with cancer, and supervising massage therapists in hospitals in the Bay Area, USA,  I delved into pain with some vigour, fascination and a lot of interest in its ability to transmit information to those who were suffering.

My own journey with pain made me realise that I had a high tolerance so would leave things “too long” before I took care of it except when it came to my teeth, for some reason that was a pain I wasn’t willing to tolerate, despite my fear of dentists.

At other times I felt a grateful pain as it worked through my body knowing it was a healing balm. And at other times, it took me to a place I was being called to, my knees in surrender.

Recently at the dentist, having a crown prepared I asked for more pain killer as I could still feel the drilling. After which somehow all the aches and pains disappeared everywhere and I nearly fell asleep. I was very numb, and I was at peace. The next morning aches and pains returned and I was reminded of my former days when I would choose to numb the pain rather than feel it. Now I rarely take a headache pill.


Unknown.jpegThe root word of suffer is to “feel keenly” and to numb is a potentially dangerous opposite as it cuts off the ability to feel, it also takes us out of consciousness ( the point of the exercise) as opposed to pain, when severe almost feels like it is heightening a connection to some otherworldly state, almost trance like or in some cases, similar to when one fasts.

Some people become addicted to pain as without it who would they then be, but I consider if in fact it’s the source of pain that they are addicted, to the origin of the wound, not the pain itself.

Gentle safe touch, I found became a transmitter a conductor of healing with those in pain and often a warm hand was enough to become the language needed between the giver and the receiver. So much seemed to be translated in that sometimes short interaction.
I am with you, You are special, safe, I support you, I accept you as you are. No pressure to get well or be fixed. Just, I witness your pain, I see your suffering, I don’t understand what its like for you, but I am here. This was just some of the feedback in a survey we conducted.

But we can touch in so many ways that are not physical, deep listening, seeing, acknowledgement without fixing, and witnessing. All without one word. I also see this as a form of tracking, myself and another. All of this unfolds and unravels before me and it becomes the healing moment, the sweet spot, the blessing in the wound. It is in some ways the thread of a story being told as happens when one looks at the spoor of a wounded animal, where it has come from, how it is now and where did it head off to.

And the psychosomatic pain is the most interesting to me as it suggests that something is going on, its real and yet its sometimes identifiable. I think many parts of our life that we may have blocked out disassociated with suppressed shows up as either a physical pain or a real psychosomatic pain where perhaps we chose to not remember or have indeed disconnected from its origin, but it is still held in the bones, muscles body. Again who do we go to with such pains and ailments, who will believe, who can we trust to hold us in the dark nights, THAT pain? But it has its purpose as Gibran says to transmute into “our divine medicine” for self and then for others.

Nature too can be become the silent language of acceptance, witnessing and healing. Go to a tree and tell it your story and see what happens. Go to the waters and ask for healing, the earth and roll in it as if it were your home and the mountain for strength and courage and they too become your doctors, and diviners, friends and support systems. When we are feeling like we are half dead, revitalise with nature and be touched by an owl in flight flapping its wings in pure untainted silence, be touched by the strength of a Baobab tree or the light of the moon as it hits the water on a black night, or the flash of silence in the bush teaming with wild animals. And then of course there are the ancestors their pain the deep pain of an ancestral legacy that can indeed be transmuted into the alchemical gold of healing when we choose to include them as a part of our support system.

If we are numb to our lives then we are also numb to the magic of our lives, the potential of the greater being that we are and why we are here, the crack where the light floods in, the deepest possibility of our original story. So when you touch my teeth be sure you enter the space with reverence to the bones that carry the memory of my stories, the primal place of nurturing, the bones that have been with me for over 60 years, the ones that have chewed life, nourishment and food for my soul. So now the tooth that has been around apparantly  since I was 4 years old,  has been crowned, that feels right! 

…..Because I still want to eat life.

Gold crown

May all worlds bless and protect you always.


2 thoughts on “Grateful Pain

  1. Hi Mbali,

    I always read your posts with great interest. I like the way you express and make connections. Often it comes right when i need it.

    I picture you in the small peaceful house in Muizenberg. I will always be grateful for this special journey we made.

    The ancient knowledge of the San people is still close to my heart.

    Wish you very well, sent you love. Aikya

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