I was in and out of outpatient care in 90 minutes for a three-minute procedure that required fasting the day before. Only clear liquids for 24 hours and then nothing the morning of. Fasting aided in mental preparation for the experience because I planned to opt out of anesthesia.
I wanted to be fully conscious.
Despite any anticipated discomfort, I wanted nothing fogging my mind. I wanted clear conversation with the medical staff. I wanted to stand up and walk out without assistance.
So that’s what I did.
My outpatient procedure reminded me of experiencing day-to-day life. Is the experience a conscious one, or is it fogged up a bit by anesthesia – something to numb any pain?
I’ve experienced this to be true: Pain is our greatest teacher if we’re willing to learn.
Now let me be clear, choosing anesthesia for a medical procedure is obviously a wise and acceptable choice. (I delivered two babies, and I love epidurals. In fact, when my anesthesiologist was at home while I was turning the corner of 7 cm dilation, I had a few words to say about it. Damn you, Richard, to be exact.)
But to numb the pain of everyday living is what keeps us stumbling and fumbling around in a stupor.
It’s normal to avoid pain. It hurts. Everyone has some sort of coping strategy when emotional pain surfaces in order to lessen the intensity or duration. Most times this is a helpful strategy. But there are also times when coping is not helpful (read here to recognize these times) because it can cause us to feel groggy, slur our speech, and misinterpret conversations in meaningful relationships. It can make us dependent or addicted. We can begin to sleepwalk through life…like we’re attached to an IV drip of sedation medication.
Here’s what I want to say to you: OPT OUT.
Sure your heart may pound without it, but you’ll be awake.
As Richard Rohr suggests, “Jesus, Buddha, and other spiritual teachers tell us to wake up—to be alert, alive, awake, attentive, or aware”.
Here are some tips for staying awake when you’d rather sedate yourself:
Come to the here and now, despite pain, and breath deeply. When confronted with pain, we hold our breath. But breathing helps to oxygenate the blood, releasing endorphins in the body which reduce stress and decrease pain.
Confront the voice that interjects fear.
This pain will not kill me. Yes it hurts and maybe I even wish it wasn’t happening, but I’m not going to die and this pain is temporary. Lean in it. Face it directly. Emotional pain has something to teach you, and then it moves on.
When applicable, choose anesthesia consciously.
How are you numbing pain on purpose? How are you numbing pain unknowingly?
Living consciously, fully awake, is a trip. Consider allowing us to help pack your bags.
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