Pain management – another look

Daily pain affects more than 1.5 billion people worldwide.  So it is no surprise that pain management is a hot topic, today and everyday.  With the options that are available to us in this regard, are we really seeing a reduction in the number of people experiencing pain and the severity of the pain experienced?  Let’s take another look.

The dictionary describes pain as:  “localized physical suffering associated with a bodily disorder” or  “acute mental or emotional suffering“.  Now, I am sure we all believe we know what pain is, that we have experienced it or ARE experiencing it and that we no longer wish to, right?

What if we didn’t have the word ‘pain’, what word would we use to describe what we were feeling instead?  What if we decided not to attach the label of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to the experience and just wanted to acknowledge that something was there, what would we say?  I know this is a stretch for many of us, but we are vastly intelligent beings, so let’s give it a try.  Might we call it an ‘intense sensation’?  Or perhaps, ‘a localized pressure of high magnitude’?  Maybe we would describe a more chronic pain as ‘a deep throbbing sensation without end’?  My point here is to stretch the mind beyond the labels that we currently attach to our individual and collective problems and to seek a new perspective.

The medical industry is consumed with finding ‘treatments’ for ‘disease’, and we applaud them their efforts.  At the same time, we are creating more ailments to treat faster than we can get rid of existing ones.  Something must be askew.

Yes, we have all taken aspirn for a headache and experienced the results, though not always knowing the cause.  Many today are dependent on medications or regular treatments of one sort or another just to make it through the day.  Still many of those individuals have become either addicted to the medications or addicted to the experience that pain management affords them.  This is not an ideal state of affairs.

Yes, there are alternative methods for dealing with pain, both acute and chronic that include acupuncture, massage, homeopathy, herbs and meditation.  Some have tried these approaches with great success and others have dismissed them as impossibilities, for one reason or another.

Collectively, I think we as a people must dig to the root of our pain.  For on some level, we are all deriving our beliefs and struggles with pain from the same paradigm – that pain is a normal part of this reality.  What if it wasn’t?  What if pain was trying to speak to us of something deeper within each one of us…something beyond the intense sensations and localized pressure?  What if relief of our pain was dependent on discovering what that ‘deeper’ thing is?

Many long-time meditators and yogic practitioners have found complete and total relief from pain they once experienced.  Though the methods they use can be tried by anyone, only some will experience success – and here’s why.  It isn’t about the method, it’s about the intention.  Have you ever been to a massage therapist who was fully licensed and trained, even in business for a while, but their treatment just felt mechanical?  If you have, you know what I’m talking about.  Then there are those therapists who simply ‘have it’, there is no other way of saying it.  They are in-tune with your body, with the energy, they know how deep to go, where the sore spots are, they are intuitive – period.  It’s the same with any profession, some people are trained and ‘go through the motions’ and others are ‘made for it’, ‘naturals’ – you might say.  Well, perhaps it is the same way with our experiences, though the difference is -we can train ourselves to switch from ‘automated responses’ to the desired ones.  What am I talking about?

If you grow up in a society where everyone teaches you that cows are h0ly and sacred and that everything derived from them is also holy, healthy and to be viewed as a divine gift – that is the reality you will experience.  In India, this is such the case.  Cows are viewed as sacred embodiments of the divine mother – and therefore all the products that come from them (save meat, because you don’t kill something sacred) are holy as well – the manure, the milk, butter, etc.  In India, the manure is a very important fire starter, without it many people would suffer.  In this case, it is morally and socially wrong to kill a cow for any reason, even by accident.  In fact, if the cow is in the road, you will simply wait for it to pass, even if it takes ALL DAY.

Now this might seem a strange example given the topic of pain management, and may even feel like a stretch to my point, but the idea behind this is – we are trained, by our culture, peers and societal ‘norms’ how to respond to stimulus.  On the one hand, yes, pain is a normal response to injury.  It is trying to alert us that something is wrong.  This is certainly the modern day understanding of pain.  But what if we stretched our thinking to instead entertain the idea that those intense sensations were giving us access to another layer of reality that we were not previously experiencing?  What if we could ‘train ourselves’ to react differently to the stimuli?

Those in professions where they are repeatedly hit or kicked, like kick boxing, report that after being ‘kicked’ so many times – they actually move beyond the ‘pain’ and are empowered by it to find another state of mind.  They say that the sport actually starts where their pain took them.  Many people over the ages have used forms of self-mutilation to induce altered states of consciousness, and many people report today that they get ‘addicted’ to getting tattoos for the same reason, there is something beyond the pain.

Now, I am in no way promoting or condoning self-mutilation, but rather using it to steer the mind in the direction of my logic.  We have all heard the statement ‘what you resist, persists’.  I am sure if you look into your life, you can see where that has been true, though we often do not translate the same philosophy to pain management.  Very little do you hear someone say ‘go into the pain’.  But what if we did? What if we stopped trying to stop the pain and went right into it – to discover what was there?

There are many metaphysical authors today writing books such as “Your Body Speaks your Mind” by Deb Shapiro and “You can Heal your Body” by Louise Hay which speak of possible emotional or mental causes behind pain and other body conditions.  The idea is that our body is speaking to us, and if we would just listen deeply to what is being said, even if it is difficult to face, then our bodies will not have to scream so loudly.

I am not invalidating pain as it is being experienced now, I am simply suggesting that there are deeper issues desiring to be addressed within us all – individually and collectively.  When we do, I imagine a very different society and a very different world.

Consider the things that contribute to the experience of pain such as: stress, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, self-pity, self-loathing, loneliness and feelings of failure.  The list could really go on and on.  How do we find a place in our lives where these things are not contributing factors?

My suggestion before, that those who practiced meditation and yoga were less likely to experience pain is because they are most likely to find peace of mind and the release of their resistance to what ails them.

I know I personally have experienced this many times with different forms of pain including intense menstrual cramps – which had me doubled over to the floor, the sensations of childbirth, and the trauma from a head-on collision.  In all of these cases, I chose to surrender to the pain as deeply as I could.  This did not immediately relieve my sensations, but it did open a doorway toward their release.

In the first case, it took several times of surrendering without the aid of my normal medication to allow my body to go in a new direction and to uncover deep feelings in me which contributed to my struggle.  Over time, my menstrual cycle went from a painful, heavy 9 day torture time to a 3 day nearly unnoticeable and even delightful happening.  With childbirth, my choice and results were much more condensed, as time did not have the upper hand.  I chose to have natural childbirth with no painkillers.  When the sensations began to build, I did what I had prepared myself for – I toned, got primal and just let myself release vocally in anyway I felt the need.  This was an amazingly successful way to alleviate painful sensations and turn them into – simply sensations of a more intense nature.   In the final case, with the car accident, the pain medication I received was not in the least bit effective, it only made me feel unbalanced and dizzy.  Instead, I chose to use some deeply relaxing herbs and took myself outside under the trees to allow this process to settle in my body.  I could tell that in some ways I had been shattered, beyond my physical, and I needed reintegration time.  How many of us allow ourselves that time after something major happens?  In the end, acupuncture combined with regular yoga practice and a mind solid on the awareness that I was not my pain, but just experiencing it for a time, got me through to a place where I am now without it.

In an age where we cling to our pain and constantly search out ways to relieve it, let us take another look – a look inside.  Let us begin to uncover in ourselves and in our society, an alternative to the need for pain.  Pain shields us from what we would be experiencing instead if we had no pain, and sometimes the beauty, love, goodness and success is more scary to us (subconsciously) than the misery of pain.

Visualization Practice:

If you are experiencing any type of pain, for just a moment allow yourself to focus in on it.  Bring all your attention to it – allowing these words to be like a backdrop to your experience (or have someone else read to you).  Feel the pain you have now.  Even permit the sensation to intensify a bit to really gain insight into the texture, depth and color of your physical (or emotional) feeling.  Allow it to become so strong that it begins to almost radiate from your being.  Feel it.  Go into it.  Be it….Now imagine that you can take your consciousness right INTO the sensation and allow it to speak to you.  Surrender to it with your breath for just a moment.

Listen.  Relax into it.  Feel what is there, no matter the intensity.  Don’t resist.  Now slowly allow yourself to bring attention back into center and feel the painful sensations dropping off of you like you are shedding a coat or a layer of something heavy.  Feel yourself lighter, more refreshed.  Take a deep, full breath.  Exhale fully any tension left within you.  Notice now how you feel.

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Written by: Stasia Bliss

Meditation for pain;

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