Mindfulness and Pain
Mindfulness is being consciously aware and accepting of what is going on in and around you at the present moment without judging it in any way. It is more like being the “observer” rather than stepping into the story that is playing out in your experience. You become aware of all that you feel and are thinking as simply an event that you are witnessing.
Pain is something that immediately gets your attention because it is a physical feeling. Your first thought may be to get rid of it or avoid it in some way. But as you become aware of what you feel, you become emotionally involved with the pain. You might feel anger, frustration, irritation, or even fear. Then you may actually create a “story” around the pain such as “Maybe I have something serious wrong with me,” or “I overdid it yesterday so what else could I expect?”
There are three layers in any painful experience – first the feelings, then the emotions that surface surrounding it, and finally the story you create about it. You can use mindfulness to shift your relationship and experience with the pain so that you can not only ease the pain and suffering, but you may be able to stimulate your body’s innate ability for healing so that your pain can be reduced or eliminated. When you utilize mindfulness in a painful experience, you can actually change your feelings about it and assist the healing process. Changing your relationship to the pain can keep it from ruling your life.
In the first step you observe the story you are telling yourself about the pain you are experiencing. It is likely that much of the story you have created is not true. Perhaps it surfaces due to recollections of past experiences of yourself or others, but it could even be something you are imagining. So you have to separate the facts from fiction here, making sure you only pay attention to what is truth.
With the second step you observe what you are feeling about the pain. Are you feeling anger, fear or just frustrated that you are experiencing this pain right now? Step away from the feelings a moment and simply identify what you are feeling, keeping away from attachment to the feelings.
In the third and final step you are now able to actually pay attention to the painful sensation with a loving and gentle feeling. Take several deep breaths to relax your body as much as possible. Next, feel around the edges of the painful area and simply notice any feelings or sensations. Breathe slowly into them and watch if they change in any way. Step into the middle of the painful area and breathe in and out of it. Notice the feeling of spaciousness in the middle of this painful area. Accept it then nurture it. Send love to the area and allow it to seep into all dimensions of the pain. You can ask the painful area to give you a message about the pain if you wish. The answers can be quite surprising!
Mindfulness can be applied to any area of your life and any situation. The more you do it, the better you get at doing it. It helps you become more present in every moment of your daily life, gives you clearer insights that can help you on your life journey, and helps you experience positive resolutions to any problems or situations that appear on your path.
The best way to practice mindfulness is through meditation. You might be thinking right now how hard it is for you to meditate. Perhaps you’ve given up trying since you feel you can never do it the right way, or you can’t seem to get your mind quiet enough. Yes, it is hard for many individuals to facilitate at first, but you have always heard that “practice makes perfect.” The key is to simply commit to doing it and not worry about how you do it.
Meditating is simply sitting quietly without allowing your thoughts to take over. Using a guided meditation may help you get started with some success, then you can step into your own meditation style. In the case of pain, you would be following the guidelines shared above, so it would be a type of guided meditation.
You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression “Stop and smell the roses.” This is the suggestion to take some time to notice beautiful life moments instead of hurrying through them in the hustle and bustle of your busy life. You’ve been conditioned by everything and everyone around you to produce, contribute, do and complete. Society wants everything done yesterday, and certainly there is no time for pain in a busy life. Yet pain is a message for you to pay attention to what is going on inside of you. Failure to heed its warning may cost you dearly at some point on your life’s journey.
Consider mindfulness as a new way to step through life and the pain that often accompanies our journey here on earth.
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