We are all likely to experience intense pain during our lives, which may leave us unable to function as we did before. So, how can we work with this pain to make it less debilitating, without using excessive medication that decreases our awareness?
Our Conditioned Response
Our society is conditioned so much to avoid pain that it is ingrained into practically all of us. Ask yourself the honest question, ‘What is my first response when I begin to feel pain?’ Do you reach for the medications, or seek to distract yourself in some way? It’s understandable. Society seeks to keep us craving comfort and thus pushes this conditioning onto us. But if we are to embrace our full potential we must break this conditioning. If we no longer avoid uncomfortable experiences, but instead seek to transcend them, then we realize that actually our pain is but one part of us. It may be there but it no longer defines us.
Breaking the Conditioning
I’m not talking about the ‘no pain – no gain’ approach where we try to push through and somehow overpower our pain. Surrendering to the pain is the key. Rather than contracting around it, we embrace it and let it exist within us. This may seem a little counter intuitive at first. But, you know what, have you observed what happens when you allow the pain to be?
What we are doing here is changing our response to the pain, thus we are the masters, no longer letting the pain define us. Softening and observing are essential to this approach. From my own experiences and many other people, I can tell you that somehow when we relax breath and soften into the pain, allowing it simply to be, then suddenly it no longer seems to be the debilitating monster it once was. Often it simply seems to float in space. Once we have relaxed then we can focus on simply observing. By being the observer, we realize that although the pain is part of us, we are not the pain itself.
6 – Step Process
- Observe your body and where you are tight or tense. This may be anywhere, not just around the pain. Work to relax and unwind any tension using the breath.
- Observe the pain. How does it feel? Where is it? Try not to define any sensations with the mind, but simply observe them as they are.
- Observe that when you do this, the pain is no longer a tight, gripping sensation, but somehow seems to float in space. It may help to close your eyes if you haven’t done so already.
- Keep working to soften into the pain, further relaxing the whole body. Fully accept the sensations as being part of you. You may wish to send love from the heart centre if you feel to do so.
- Perhaps the sensations want to express themselves in some way. This applies especially for emotional and mental pain, but can also be applicable for physical pain. Perhaps you want to move in some way, shout, cry, dance or even laugh. Or perhaps being still is the best expression.
- Observe that all this is just an experience. It is part of you, but it doesn’t define you. You are not these sensations. You are the observer, lovingly holding any sensations which happen to fall into your body.
Go Easy on Yourself
Practice makes perfect, but don’t expect to be a master after one try. Go easy on yourself. A little comfort is fine, especially if the pain is too much to bare, so if you find yourself seeking to relieve the pain with medication or distraction, that’s fine. But hopefully by trying this method what will come is the awareness that it works. Experiment with it. Perhaps something else works for you, but the key is to surrender into to pain so that it’s no longer ‘me vs. pain’ but rather ‘me and the pain’.