I can hear you ask, “but how can Mindfulness aid in Pain Management?” Have you ever heard the term ‘what we practice grows stronger’?
Dr Shauna Shapiro, who is a Professor of Psychology in Arizona, talks about how these simple words changed her life when she was recovering from spinal surgery at the age of 17. She explains that by initially focusing on anger, frustration, self-judgement and criticism, that is what she manifested into her life during her recovery. She goes on to explain that by adapting her focus to self-love, self-compassion, self-care, kindness and positivity she was able to manifest these elements to aid in her pain management and her recovery.
This is an example of the power of Mindfulness and how it can truly transform anyone’s life. When we learn how to focus on our present experience, whatever that experience may be, but without entertaining or getting pulled into all the drama, fears, worries, emotional pain and trauma that our brains create around the actual experience, Mindfulness can be a very effective form of pain relief and aid your pain management programme.
There is a scenario I love to use in my teachings. This is called ‘The Two Arrow Analogy’. The basic concept of this traditional Buddhist teaching is that it is inevitable and common humanity that we are all going to suffer pain and discomfort in our lives – this signifies the first arrow of suffering. However, we have the choice as to how we want to deal with our pain and suffering – this represents the second arrow of suffering. We can choose whether we want to shoot or fire the second arrow!!! This analogy helps us to learn how to deal with our normal, human pain and suffering more skillfully.
Let us take the example of someone who suffers with back pain daily in their lives. This is an awful physical pain and trauma for the sufferer and most likely makes their normal daily lives much more difficult. This is the first arrow of suffering. How the sufferer decides to react to this daily back pain and suffering mentally, emotionally and physically is entirely their choice. This is the second arrow of suffering. The sufferer can choose to let their mind, body and emotions become completely overwhelmed and consumed by this daily pain. They can choose to only allow themselves to focus on the level of pain and discomfort they are in. They can choose to replay the pain and suffering track in their minds or verbalise it to family and friends. They can choose to exclude themselves from certain events, outings, gatherings because of their mental, emotional and physical discomfort.
Or the sufferer can learn through Mindfulness to:
• Accept the awareness of and recognise that their physical pain and suffering are part of their present experience
• Acknowledge with compassion to themselves that it is ok and that is expected that they should feel grieved, emotional, physically restricted, tired and frustrated with their pain and suffering
• Gain comfort through Mindfulness that human pain and suffering is part of common humanity and that there are millions of other people experiencing pain and suffering in the same moment
Something else that I always love to reference in my teachings is a quote by Jon-Kabat Zinn, an American Professor and the Founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme:
“Awareness is not the same as thinking. It is a complementary form of intelligence, a way of knowing that is at least as wonderful and as powerful, if not more so, than thinking.”
(Source: Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness)
So HOW do I use Mindfulness to aid in my Pain Management?
The following is a step by step guide on how to use Mindfulness to aid Pain Management:
By Leona McDonnell Mindfulness and Wellness.
Thanks to Deirdre in Deirdre Rusk Photography for her amazing images!! Check out more of Deirdre’s work on her website https://www.deirdrerusk.com/
(As published by The Celtic Media Group in The Anglo Celt, Connaught Telegraph, Meath Chronicle, Offaly Independent, Westmeath Examiner and Westmeath Independent newspapers w/c 28/09/2020)