Darlene Cohen discovered the secret to finding happiness in the midst of debilitating pain. She shares her knowledge in her popular workshops and now in this book. Cohen, who has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for eighteen years, was hobbling painfully to her local Zen center one day, when she made a discovery that changed her life: if she focused on the foot that was in the air rather than the one that was hitting the pavement, her stamina increased enormously. It was the beginning of a completely different approach to the crippling pain that had beset her for so long. As she demonstrates here, this approach can be expanded to all types of pain: physical, psychological, and spiritual.
Cohen—a certified massage and movement therapist and Zen teacher—proposes a radically liberating alternative to the usual desperate search for pain relief: paradoxically, she says, release from suffering lies in paying closer attention to it. When we keep pain at bay, we keep pleasure at bay, too. The two are interdependent, and our ability to experience each is totally dependent on our understanding of the other.
“Enrich your life exponentially,” Cohen advises. If your pain is one of the ten things you are aware of, then it constitutes a tenth of your total awareness. Expand your awareness to a hundred things, however, and your pain is only a hundredth of your awareness. With stories, strategies, exercises, and an awareness born of long Zen practice, Cohen shows us how to tap into that enrichment—and how we can lead a satisfying and even joyful life in the very midst of pain.
This book was published in hardcover under the title Finding a Joyful Life in the Heart of Pain. For the past 20 years author Darlene Cohen has had rheumatoid arthritis, a painful and crippling condition. “I became isolated from everyone I knew by my pain and fear and ultimately even by the consuming effort I had to make to do any little thing–like get up from a chair, fix a cup of tea,” she writes. How do we live through catastrophic situations such as Cohen’s without being destroyed? For starters, don’t go numb, suggests Cohen, a Zen teacher who offers pain seminars in medical facilities and meditation centers along the West Coast. “If we don’t acknowledge our pain, we usually don’t feel our pleasure either,” Cohen explains. “Life takes on a zombie-like tenor.” In fact, many of our most self-destructive habits come from an avoidance of physical or emotional pain, claims Cohen, such as substance abuse, becoming overly scheduled or overly busy, avoiding intimacy to avoid hurt. Through storytelling, attitude adjustments, meditation exercises, and straight-from-the-heart advice, Cohen guides readers into a more alive and joyful life, even in the midst of pain. –Gail Hudson
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