Stress Reduction

Using Mindfulness to Reduce Pain

When I am in pain, my entire outlook can shift toward the negative. Everything seems just out of reach. I worry if I will ever feel normal again. Of course, when I slow down and notice my mind spinning stories of catastrophe, I feel better. Just thoughts and stories, I remind myself. The pain is still there, but there is more to me than my aching feet or hip. Pain sensations come and go. I know that I can work with them.

I am aware of how much I fear the pain. I note thought patterns and emotions that recur at these times. These thoughts are not “me” just as the aches and pains are not me. Being with the fear of pain now is a simpler challenge: How can I just be with these recurring thoughts calmly – neither wishing them away nor buying into them as truth? This being with fearful thinking and letting it come and go is mindfulness in action.

I donʼt mean to leave the impression that I donʼt respect bodily sensations, pain included. This is not an invitation to throw caution and common sense away. It is wise to listen to the bodyʼs messages with interest and caring. But, it is the reactive and fearful mind that frequently steals away much of our enjoyment of life.

Early on in mindfulness training we practice letting the fear be, allowing it in without being consumed by it. In my own experience, knowing this can be done with some practice, brings with it relief, both in my mind and in my body. I relax and remember to be grateful that this body is still alive and wanting to move and respond to whatever my day brings to my life.

What can I do? Take care of the part of the pain that can be taken care of, and let go the rest. The power of shifting attention to those endeavors in life that still bring pleasure and satisfaction is a precious skill that comes in handy at these moments. Turning oneʼs attention to whatever project is accessible and satisfying is one way of going forward and living: with or without pain. Not forgetting all the things that are still right with us helps to manage pain.

What can be more satisfying than rediscovering our enjoyment in life?

“Believe that you can – and you are half way there”
-Theodore Roosevelt