Mindfulness and mindful meditation seem to be just about everywhere these days. I first came to learn about mindfulness about 10 years ago during my one-on-one work with a therapist. We practiced mindfulness as a way to cope with the hurt and anxiety I was dealing with at the time. As our work continued we focused on mindful parenting, mindful meditation. Anything and everything that had to do with mindfulness. With anything in life I believe one has to take what works for them and not stress about the rest. I have found mindfulness useful for staying in the moment…not easy to do when you’re trying to get a kid out the door for school. I also practice mindfulness to better understand and cope with my feelings. It’s a powerful way for me to recognize how I feel, why I feel the way I do and to process and manage my feelings. Mindfulness keeps me from burying things. It is a thoughtful way for me to accept how I feel but not let it consume or distract me. Recently, I’ve started to explore the idea of mindfulness for pain management, which seems really counterintuitive but is actually working!
If you follow me on Instagram you may have gleaned from one of my posts that I took a bad fall in October. I was all dolled up, wearing one of my favorite pairs of shoes and on my way to the ladies room I fell down a flight of stairs. It was pretty surreal while it happened, almost as if I was watching it from outside of myself. When I reached the bottom, I picked myself up and went into the Ladies Room. No one saw me fall, so I didn’t have to worry about hurt pride…but oh boy, my back. Ouch!
Since my fall, I’ve been seeing a chiropractor to help work out the kinks on the left side of my back. As my treatment has gone on, I’ve developed aches and pains in my neck, shoulder, arm. Everything is moving in a positive direction…although it may not seem like it. But this whole experience has taught me a lot about pain.
First, I’ve been pretty lucky in life with respect to injury. I’ve only broken one bone, in my toe so I’m not sure that really counts and aside from giving birth I’ve never been in a hospital or had to cope with any major pain or health related catastrophes.
Second, living with pain sucks. It changes your whole outlook. In the last month, practically every move I’ve made has come with a twinge of pain. I’ve had to pass on playing tennis a few times, which I HATE to do. I’ve had to take countless Advils, Aleves, drown myself in arnica, ice, heat, stretch, repeat. All of this melds into a muddled cloud of aches, pains, depression and malaise. It makes you wonder how people live with chronic pain and definitely makes you understand how people can get addicted to pain killers.
I am definitely a “show must go on” person so I’ve handled this all without really putting the people in my life out. But I’ve found myself wanting alternative ways to cope that don’t include a pharmacy or endless doctor’s visits. Which brings me back to mindfulness. What I’m finding is the more that I recognize rather than cover, ignore or numb the pain, the more the effects lessen. When I feel pain in the affected areas, I’m leaning in to it. The act of acknowledging how I’m feeling is acting as a natural pain reducer. Talking about it and even blogging about it is shifting the way my mind is processing the pain and is neutralizing it. It seems kind of new-agey but I’ve found a bunch of articles online about research studies and workshops promoting mindfulness for pain management. So there must be something to this!
Here’s an article I found particularly useful in explaining mindfulness for pain management in simple terms: Psychology Today
And here are some of my favorite meditation resources: