Are you suffering with chronic pain? Have you found the more you think about it ... the worse it gets? Have you also noticed that people don’t really know what to say when you mention it? And ... to be honest ... anything they do say makes you angry. So where do you go?
Chronic Pain and Your Subconscious Mind
The Oneness Approach would suggest a place that has always and will always be available to you ... your Subconscious Mind. That may sound a little strange but there is a part of you that is capable of great things. You use it any time you approach something that is complicated but that, over time, you can learn and then can do easily ... like driving a car.
Your Subconscious Mind can help you learn and deal with almost anything that life throws at you ... but it helps to know how to engage it and allow it to help you with your pain. So let’s get started!
When you consciously think about pain ... it hurts more. And it hurts you in more ways than one. The thinking parts of your mind actually shrink under the pressure of the constant rumination about how badly you hurt. However, you do have a very real defense.
How the Brain Handles Chronic Sensations
Do you notice the pressure of the sock or shoe around your foot? ... Now you likely do! What just happened? One moment you didn’t feel it and in the next moment you did. Well, there is a circuit in your brain that is responsible for this. It literally courses down your spine inhibiting any sensations that are chronic and no longer seem relevant. This is likely why the last bite of nice dinner doesn’t taste quite as good as the first. After a while you mind adjusts as if to say ... ‘Oh well, more of the same ol’ thing’
Well, if this works for other chronic sensations ... why not chronic pain? And it turns out that it does. There does seem to be a little competition going on. While more sensations adjust quickly those of pain are connected tightly to your flight and fight centers. This makes sense as pain certainly provides us a warning that something is wrong.
However, with chronic pain the warning has long since worn out it’s welcome. As time goes on, if the flight or fight center remains stimulated we get ourselves into all kinds of trouble. All of the things that prepare us to fight or flee aren’t so good for the body chronically. You end up with elevated blood sugar and cortisol levels, high blood pressure and chronically elevated inflammation throughout the body. This is one of the reasons that the thinking portion of the brain actually shrinks over time.
Let’s talk about how we practice using the body’s own systems to ‘down regulate’ the sensation of pain BEFORE it gets to our brain.
Practical Ways to Beat Chronic Pain
First, we need to do something about all of the adrenalin running through our body. We can use it up through aerobic exercise as this is one of it’s natural purposes. Starting any exercise can be a little tough with all of the inflammation in our body ... so take it easy. Ask your doctor what is safe for you and then start the first few minutes ridiculously slowly. It will take a bit of time before you feel a release ... a little warmth in your muscles. When you do then just try to maintain an aerobic exercise as long as feels comfortable. Aerobic means that you can easily talk to someone else and keep up that level of exercise.
Next, you need to do something about decreasing the production of all of that adrenaline. So ... treat your body well, get enough rest, eat foods that don’t make you feel like you’ve eaten a bowling ball an hour after the meal. Avoid TV if you can as this has your mind responding to whatever is happening on the program you are watching ... while you are sitting…storing up even more adrenaline! Also ... do you think talking about it (Except to your doctor) makes any of this any better? Let any conversations about your pain and any pain related behaviors go!
Now, let’s talk about meditation. We need to think this through to understand what you need to do. Most of the time you are asked to ‘feel into’ the pain ... to deal with it ... to figure out where it is coming from ... and then enjoy the release. Hmmm ... do you notice something? The circuit we want to ‘energize’ actually decreases the input of pain to your brain. We are going to have to reverse course as we already know where the pain is coming from so there’s nothing to figure out. This is why the brain developed this system in the first place ... to help us focus away from something that provides no benefit to your here and now.
The bottom line is that if you continue your meditation practice as you have in the past you will naturally avoid ANY distraction…including the distraction of chronic pain. So ... focus on your breath, your thoughts, your feelings, your relationships ... really anything you think will add benefit to your life ... and smile at any thoughts, feelings or sensations of pain and say..”Not now little ones” swallow them down and return to your meditation. Do the same as you go through your day, “Not now little ones” we’re going through our day ... and at night ... before you go to sleep too allow REM sleep to consolidate the day's gains ... tell yourself ... ”Nice job” for ANY time you were successful.
And ... over time ... watch your success at living your life and ignoring your pain grow!