Service is Joy

There’s a secret I would like to share with you. It’s not a “shhh… don’t tell” kind of secret. I only call it a secret because you’ll need to be able to see from a certain vantage point to understand it. So if you don’t get what I’m talking about, then it’s fine to ignore me and just take from this post whatever you can. So here goes:

Life has no purpose. Life is just life, unfolding and collapsing, exploding and imploding, breathing in and out, in all its mystery and glory.

Many of us spend countless hours seeking the point of existence. We explore all types of options and try on all types of labels and experiences. Some leaders say the point is to love. Others say it is to give. Still others say the point is to get rich, while others say it is to be happy. A few say the point is to discover Truth.

What I have found to be true is you can never find “THE” point of life. However you can find “YOUR” point.

Now before you get all maudlin and start moaning, “What’s the use?  Why should I even get out of bed?” let me say that in another way: We have the blessed gift to find our own personal purpose of life. And the even better news: we can change our mind!

There was a time when I believed the purpose of life was to be happy. I did everything I could to discover how to accomplish this. The happiness derived from pleasure was not enough; it was too fragile. Living with chronic pain also put quite a damper on that option as well.

I worked my spiritual path and finally discovered Bliss. I learned to exist in true happiness beyond the senses – a completely unreasonable joy.

It was great! But then I noticed that no matter what I did, I could not make other people see it. I lived on this wonderfully beautiful cloud, untouched by sorrow. There was no sorrow, yet I suffered. Every time I interacted with someone, I felt their pain and sorrow. I learn that my point of life was not enough. Bliss was not enough.

Over time, I began to notice when I gave of my Self – whether it was time or money or just a smile – the joy I felt spread to others. Often it was in very small ways, yet I could see it in their being. Something shifted within them and within me, revealing a deep sense of connection, to not just each other but to Life itself.

There were times when I felt tired and drained, but if an opportunity arose, I could not help myself and I had to act in service. It was not an obsessive take advantage of me feeling; rather it was a deep pull that answered a calling from someone in need. Something in me latched onto this new purpose, this new point of life. There was not an intentional decision that I made; it just happened through me naturally.

Today my personal point of life is service, because service is joy. And it brings freedom from having to live on a cloud.

This doesn’t mean that it is YOUR point of life. As I said, your purpose is a wonderful gift for you to unwrap.


So now I’m curious…What is your life purpose? There are no right or wrong answers. Please share your views with me and others who read this blog in the comments.



My work is entirely funded by my readers – by you. If you like what you have read, if you find insight or inspiration in these words, please visit my Donate page to learn how you can help keep the work going.

11 Day Fundraiser

The 11 day Fundraiser for “Peace with Pain” is now live!

Peace with Pain
Your Guide to a Joyful and Productive Life in a Malfunctioning Body

The book has been sent to the designer, but I need your help to release it to the public. For the next 11 days, I’ll be conducting a fundraiser to help pay for the costs of producing and distributing this long awaited book. Please visit the Indiegogo site to learn how you can help!

To get daily updates over the next 11 days, please join my mailing list. In each email, you’ll find a quote from my new book!


If you missed the fundraiser, you can still get in on the Perk of receiving one of the first signed copies! I expect the book to be ready in January. If you would like to pre-order a signed copy, use the PayPal button below or send a check for $33 with a note requesting a copy to:

Jenna Sundell
PO Box 1161
Spring Valley, CA 91979-1161

Signed copies of Peace with Pain are $33 each.
(You can change quantities on the secure PayPal screen.)



Peace with Pain
Your Guide to a Joyful and Productive Life in a Malfunctioning Body

The book has been sent to the designer, but I need your help to release it to the public. For the next 11 days, I’ll be conducting a fundraiser to help pay for the costs of producing and distributing this long awaited book.

Ocean of Infinite Awareness


During the practice of meditation,
when you reach that point
where you feel you cannot sit any longer
due to exhaustion, fear, anxiety,
or that unidentified uncomfortableness,IMG_3177


Surrender to the Light,
with the attitude of:
“Light, do with me what you will.”
Surrender all resistance
and let yourself dissolve completely.

Let go of all notions, all thoughts, all ideas.
Allow the wave of the self to dissolve back into
the ocean of infinite awareness.


Sleep is Over-rated, but I Do Love to Dream

Sleep is over-rated, but I do love to dream. Between the head-shelf shuffle of five different pillows, the pain in every position, the snoring, and a pair of bed-hogging cats I managed to drift off for a little while last night.

The adventure began in an old western town theater hosting a talent show. The audience members in the first row of each section were unexpectedly required to display a talent. (Conveniently, I’ve blocked out what talent I shared.) After my turn, I ran next door to a used bookstore for my friend a few seats down. He found me holding an armful of books; I was too late to deliver. In the street a 1950’s cop car chased me down the dirt road. In a way that can happen only in dreams, the cop reached out a stretchy arm, and pulled my steering wheel just in time to help me avoid a crash. He dropped a check on my front seat, payment for the talent show, and his arm snapped back into his own car. I stomped on the brakes in disbelief. He pulled next to me and yelled, “Get off the tracks!” The warning bells at the train crossing began to clang, and I sped off into silence.

It’s been over 13 years since I’ve slept through the night, and I treasure every one of my dreams, including the bad, the sweet, the high, and the simply weird. The doctors say I have an alpha-delta wave abnormality. Basically when I go into delta-wave sleep, where the body repairs itself, alpha waves from pain signals intrude. Like a fire alarm repeatedly going off inside a factory, it makes it tough for the workers to do their job. A long time ago, I asked my doctor for long acting pain medication to help me sleep through the night. He said it would interfere with dreaming. Less pain and no dreams? Or pain and dreams? For me the choice was easy. No amount of pain would make me willingly give up the ability to dream.

Living with that choice is not always easy. When I lay there in the middle of the night with the body screaming and hypersensitive to every tiny sound, the mind swirls around the edge of a pit. This pit is filled with self-pity, anger, and sorrow. It takes some power to resist the pit, and I don’t always succeed.

Over the years, I learned to reframe sleep. For me, it’s not a refreshing deep slumber. Rather, it’s a mandatory eight-hour rest period. Last night after turning and tossing and tossing and turning, I finally let myself look at the clock and ask: How long do I need to lay here? 3:43 AM. Another three hours at least. So I made myself as comfortable as possible and waited and rested.

Resting requires the conscious relaxing of the body and mind. Some nights, I focus on each muscle melting. Other times, I silently chant a mantra. Once in a while, like very early this morning, I simply listen to all the sounds. I do my best to practice patience with all aspects of being. And if I’m lucky, I drift off into a dream adventure.



90 Seconds

90 Seconds 

Emotions flash through the mind in a moment; however it takes the body a little longer to process them. It doesn’t take as long as you might think. According to the research by Jill Bolte Taylor (author of My Stroke of Insight), the chemical reaction that occurs in the body as a result of an emotion takes only 90 seconds to disperse.  That is, of course, if you don’t think about the emotion, and in the process unwittingly tell the brain to continue releasing all those chemicals.


Now, 90 seconds can feel like a long time. When you’re waiting for your computer to boot up, or for the stoplight to change, or when you’ve been enveloped by anger, just 90 seconds can feel like an eternity. However, with 86,400 seconds in a day, 90 seconds is a very small fraction of time. 

In those moments of unpleasant emotion, we can learn to sit with our bodies and wait for the chemical reaction to calm. Every time we notice any emotion, it is an opportunity to be mindful of the moment. We can be present with whatever emotion and thoughts arise, and without engaging our thoughts, we can watch both the emotion and the thoughts disperse. We can feel what that emotion is like in our body. When anger fills us, we can feel the heart race, the fists clench, and the jaw tighten. As we wait for the 90 seconds to pass, we can notice the heart slowing, the hands loosening, and the jaw relaxing.


To stay with the moment takes practice. This practice begins with simply noticing what is happening. If you immediately engage and watch your mind spin out, then you are practicing. As you pay attention to how it feels, you will learn what it costs to engage, to indulge in anger, sorrow, and other lower mind states. After watching enough times, you’ll be inspired to try something different. Just as we learn to not touch a hot stove because we burned our hand, we learn not to engage the thoughts that lead us to suffering. 

If we find ourselves recoiling from the experience, we can give ourselves cues to remind ourselves to stay present. We can teach ourselves to concentrate on our watch, and pay attention to the second hand ticking along, each time we notice an emotion. Or we can use a mantra, like OM (aum), or notice the beauty around us, or concentrate on gratitude, to hold the focus of our mind while we wait for the body to do its thing. Once we’ve been through it a few times, then we’ll have more confidence and be able to stay fully present longer with all that we experience.


So try it today: Simply wait and watch. After all, it’s only 90 seconds!


~ Jenna Sundell

Taking Refuge – published in Awareness Magazine

My article “Taking Refuge” was published in Awareness Magazine, in the November/December issue with the angels and holiday theme. Learn about this powerful Buddhist practice, and how it can help you today.

If you cannot find a print copy, don’t worry – you can check it out online here: 

I’d love to hear your comments!

Tips for Dealing with Pain Flares

We meditate, we practice mindfulness, we pace ourselves – and yet, sometimes we still find ourselves in a severe flare of pain. For many us, the first instinct is to push through it. Our thinking becomes muddled by pain, and we forget about pacing. Next to go is our practice of mindfulness, and we find ourselves frustrated and depressed. And in this state, it’s difficult to remember meditation is the way out of suffering.

Here is a list of tips to deal with severe pain flares from my book, Peace with Chronic Pain. These are all things to do at home, because it’s not everyday we can get to our favorite body worker. And even when we do see the chiropractor or acupuncturist or massage therapist, it’s easy to undo their work. Try these tips out and see if they work for you. For the benefit of others who find this page, please add your own tips in the comments!


  • Treat your body like a sacred object. After all, it is a manifestation of God.

  • Meditate everyday. Even a few minutes of meditation can boost your energy and improve your mood. When you don’t feel like sitting is often the time you need it the most.

  • Maintain your mind through the practice of mindfulness. Pay attention to your thoughts and constantly direct them to higher and happier states of mind, no matter what is happening to or around you. Focus on beauty and gratitude to pull you up, and strive to see the positive side of every situation you encounter.

  • Practice pacing and be mindful of your body at all times. If an action you are performing (or a position you are sitting or laying in) is increasing your pain, make the appropriate adjustments. If you cannot do it differently, then take a break until the pain recedes. An example: You’re putting three plates in the cabinet at a time and your pain is increasing. Start putting just one plate away at a time. It may take longer, but you’ll be in less pain when you’re done.

  • Heat up a hot pack, or put on a cold pack. If you feel heat coming from your muscles, the cold pack will most likely work the best. If your muscles feel unbearably tight, try the hot pack. You can also try alternating them every twenty minutes to help get the circulation going. When the whole body is in spasm, hot packs on your lower back and neck can calm things down.

  • Stretch like a cat. Cats stretch every time they get up. Even if they jump up in fright, once the threat is gone, they stop and stretch. There’s no regimented way to stretch; do whatever feels good at the moment, giving all of your muscles the opportunity to lengthen before moving around, before settling into bed for the night, and during long rests on the couch. Remember, a stretch is never painful – rather, it is a gentle pulling sensation.

  • Roll your ankles in small circles, first in one direction, then the other. Roll your shoulders gently, one at a time. Roll your neck. Be aware of any resistance as you roll; if it hurts, try rolling the opposite direction or change the size of the circle. Never force a movement; if your body doesn’t want to roll that way, it’s OK. Do only a few rolls at a time.

  • Use a Theracane self-massage tool daily. This tool looks like a long hook with a variety of knobs, which allows you to massage your entire body with minimal strain. It costs around $40 and comes with an instruction book.

  • Take lots of breaks. While you are resting, DO NOTHING. Reading a book or magazine takes energy and uses your brain, arms and hands, which means reading is not resting. If you need something to keep your mind busy, then watch a video or listen to music.

  • If you have one, plug in your TENS unit. The pulsing of the electrodes interrupts the pain signals coming from your muscles. If you don’t have one, ask your doctor or chiropractor if one would help your pain.

  • Use a pillow on your lap while driving to relive arm and shoulder pain. This is especially helpful on the way home from receiving bodywork at the chiropractor or physical therapist. I keep a u-shaped travel pillow in the car. When I’m driving, I rest my arms on it so I can reach the steering wheel without my shoulders having to hold my arms up. When I’m a passenger, I use the pillow to support my neck.

  • Learn to say NO without guilt, sadness, anger, or remorse. You are the only one who knows what your body can tolerate today. Respect your body by declining to do things that increase pain, or by leaving early. Remember to check-in with your body frequently because things can change from hour to hour. You do not need to explain yourself to anyone; if you feel the need to say something before leaving, let your friend know you’re tired and need to rest.

  • Remember all people have something going on in their life with the potential to cause suffering. While chronic pain is certainly very difficult to live with, others also face challenges everyday that intrude on their peace of mind.

  • Warm baths help to soothe sore muscles. If you don’t have a bathtub, then soak your feet in a large pan or in one of the many foot bath/spa products available. Bath salts vary widely, and I’ve found some to be more helpful than others. In my experience, Himalayan Crystal Salt is the best, but hard to find. My next choice is Dead Sea Salt. If you cannot find either of these, then try plain Sea Salt or Epsom Salt. Lavender oil (check to make sure it’s real lavender, and not just fragrance) is also helpful, as it has a relaxing effect.

  • A spa pillow for the bathtub is helpful. You can also try rolling up a washcloth to provide cushioning for your neck and head in the tub.

  • Keep a variety of pillows for your bed and your couch, so you can switch whenever you need to. Placing a pillow between or under your knees can help relieve pressure points.

  • Headphones and a CD or MP3 player with relaxing music on your nightstand will give you something to focus on as you let your body rest during the nights you wake up and cannot fall back asleep.

  • Always be positive, optimistic, and realistic.

    Thank you (in advance) for sharing what works for you in the comments! 

    Body Stuff – Experience & Labels (an excerpt)

    I’m completing the missing chapters of “Peace with Chronic Pain” and this is an excerpt from a work in progress. The agent wanted me to include my personal experience with pain, so this is from the chapter, “My Experiences, My Labels”

    Please post a comment and let me know your reaction to this piece.
    Thank YOU!!!

    ****************************For 14 years I’ve lived with chronic pain, 24/7, every moment of every day pain. It began when I was 27, right in the middle of my fantastic and successful life as a Buddhist monk, computer consultant, writer, and happy homemaker. Doctors labeled my body issues with a long list of names like TMJ Dysfunction, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic Myofascial Pain, Endometriosis, Chronic Ovarian Cysts, Interstitial Cystitis, and Lyme disease with co-infections like Babesia and Bartonella. There were gallstones spilling out of my gallbladder, but the stones and the gallbladder were removed with surgery. I celebrated the victory over vomiting, even though it took two years and a trip to the ER to find the cause. In a happy coincidence, the gallbladder surgery also fixed the Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but not before I learned where the bathroom is in every store in every neighborhood I’ve ever visited. Years later, the antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease and Toxoplasmosis cured me of my stomach acid and GERD. Again I celebrated – one less pill, whoo-hoo! The antibiotics also stopped the drunken loopyness that made me fall down at random moments (yea!); apparently my alcohol-free drunken moments were caused by the Toxoplasmosis. However, even after a full year of antibiotic treatment, the pain persists within my body. The constant pain and fatigue limit my activity and force me under the label “disabled” and onto the couch for frequent rest breaks.

    I’ve eaten mountains of pills, gone on strict diet regimens, and seen every type of MD, DO, DC, PT, and alternative care practitioner known in America. I’ve consulted Tibetan doctors, Chinese medicine specialists, and those skilled in Ayurveda. I’ve worn mouth splints to relax my jaw and used special pain relieving creams and massage tools and heating packs in all sizes, shapes and scents. A selection of ice packs dominates a section of my freezer, and I always have lavender bubble bath on hand to soothe my hundred-plus trigger points. My friend even dragged me to a psychic healer who could only tell me he saw toxins in my body, but couldn’t tell me where they were from or offer a solution to remove them. This prompted yet another batch of experiments, to purify the cells of my body.

    With every suggestion of a possible cure, or even a modicum of relief, I willingly boarded the roller coaster of hope and despair those of us with pain know all too well. We eagerly hear about the details as the cart goes click-click-click up the hill. We begin the treatment as we whoosh down the hill, filled with excitement and fear. Then the first corner nearly takes us out…the treatment doesn’t seem to be doing anything. But, wait, maybe I feel a little stronger, a little more energetic – we go up another hill, filling with hope. We rush down and around again and again, as the despair sets in and we realize the treatment didn’t work the way we expected and we are suddenly back to where we started.

    Even though I know that ride well, I still get tempted to hop on for a spin. I do it because there have been things that help some, and a little bit of relief is often worth the risk. Now that I’m older and have more experience, I look carefully before jumping on. I check to see what else is going on in my life before I decide to begin the next experiment. I’ve learned I need to choose my projects with discretion, whether they are body, writing, or teaching related. We never know exactly how the body will react to anything we put it through, and sometimes we wind up worse off than before. So I’ve learned to explore my options slowly, with eyes wide open.

    Through all of these experiences and all of these labels, the one I allow myself to hold onto in my mind is Buddhist monk. My spiritual practice is my saving grace. At the end of the day, even when I get completely spun out from whatever particular roller coaster I find myself riding, I remember why I’m here in this body. In the light of spiritual growth, a malfunctioning body doesn’t matter so much, and can even be a blessing. As I’ve often said to my students, it is only when we decide we have suffered enough, we finally devote ourselves to the spiritual path. My days begin and end with meditation, and I strive to be present and mindful of all the moments in between. This body, with all of its complaints, is one of my greatest teachers. It forces me into the present with its screaming pain. The fatigue makes me sit when I want to run away. This body has taught me respect, kindness, and patience. Even though I still whine on occasion, for all of that, I am grateful.

    Probably the toughest thing to explain is the realization that me and my body can have very different experiences at the same time. Yes, the body is in severe pain. No, I’m not bummed out about it; I’m actually feeling the ecstasy of this moment. Yes, I would like my body to work normally. Yes, I miss hiking for ten miles in the mountains and practicing Aikido and the feel of my muscles working. Now in my muscles, I just feel the burning and aching and the random stabbing, not to mention how they don’t always cooperate when I have plans for them. But that’s not enough to destroy my peace of mind because I know with every fiber of my being I am not this fragile body. This body is my vehicle, and I am responsible for taking care of it to the best of my ability. This vehicle, which allows me to have experiences in this crazy, wonderful, human world of all possible mind states, is precious. And even with its disability, this precious body is able to take me where I need to go to grow and share the light of Enlightenment in this world.