Shiver, Chatter, Surrender
Like most people, I am not a fan of pain. But sometimes there comes a time when we must do what we must do. And to heal one suffering, we must undergo a little of another.
A few moons back, an earache called me to the acupuncturist. That ache was beginning to take over shoulder, head, neck and jaw, and stabbed small electrical jolts that whispered, “Sorry honey. But it’s time to go get needled . . .”
Acupuncture is an ancient science, full of mystery to these Western minds. How does it work? Not for me to say. Simply, I know it has helped, time after time, so that I know to go. And I do. Reluctantly. No fan of needles.
A good acupuncturist slips them in, easily, gently. Like ice into water. No kerplunk. No zap. Hardly a twinge . . . He came. He went. I lay on the table. Stone still. Barely breathing. I had learned to try to keep myself from dozing off, because curiously, acupuncture can be so relaxing. So I kept myself in a semi-drowse. Relaxed, but aware.
The temperature was cool, cold. No blanket. No heater puffing warm, comforting air. My body became a shiver. And the mind began to chatter. “They should turn up the heat! They should come bring me a blanket! How can they keep this place so cold? Why is no one checking on me?!”
No one came. And as time passed, I realized I had two choices and two choices only. To resist, or surrender.
Now, an acupuncture office is a quiet place. A shrine of sorts. A temple of healing. The doctors and patients speak in whispers. They want you to go deep. To relax and allow the needles to do their magic. It is against all protocol to complain or cry out.
But here I was. Helpless. Powerless. “God grant me the serenity . . . ”
And so I did something phenomenal for me. An unheard of choice in the vast repertoire of responses to life that I had cultivated and practiced over time. I decided to experience it. For, resist how I might, the cold was there, and going to have its way with me.
There’s a concept in Zen called Beginner’s Mind. Bringing ourselves to the moment as if it were for the very first time. First cup of tea. First sip. First in-breath, and out-breath. First any and everything. Meeting the moment, new, curious, attentive, alert.
We have all become so complacent. As if existing, as if life on earth were an ordinary everyday kind of thing, and we were just so boringly used to it all . . .
Meeting the Moment
I experienced cold. I surrendered to it. I was curious about it. I bore witness. And met with my full attention the ecstatic, orgasmic-like waves that fluttered through me. That ran like ripples over my body. Like a sweet wind across a still, quiet lake. It was amazing. It was wonderful. I loved being cold. When I was fully present with it, experiencing each nuance, rather than resisting.
I was awake and alive and feeling myself, wholly, perhaps for the very first time.
I like to say we’re on automatic about 99.9% of the time. What has become automatic is to protect, resist, defend. What has become automatic is to like being warm—but not too warm—and to dislike being cold. What’s become automatic is to judge everything, and be happy when we “like” it, and unhappy when we “don’t.”
Here’s another way: Experience it. Meet it. Just this next moment in the vast phenomena of being human and having a body. A body that gets cold sometimes. That shivers. That feels heat, discomfort, hunger, tiredness, joy. A body that brings us a million mysterious, extraordinary, temporary experiences—that we call pleasure, pain, sound, sensation, texture, sight, smell—embodied on this amazing, beautiful amusement park, planet Earth.
Be in and with it. All. As if for the very first time. Because it is all, always, the first time. In this moment. When we bring our attention to it.
This first billow of steam, rising up from the cup. This first touch of porcelain to the lips. This first tart sweet taste of tea on the tongue. This first inhale and exhale in this gentle, precious now. The first touch of skin on skin. The first ripple of shiver. Kissing you, like a lover, like a gentle breeze, fluttering over the still, clear, quiet, beautiful lake of your wholly miraculous body.