Monday, April 22, 2013

Focusing right in on pain

Sometimes, your full attention in a watchful way to pain, discomfort or fear can be a fast, inexpensive, clean way to improve things.

Pain is often an alarm, a signal that something is amiss.  I found when dealing with gut pain, that if I concentrated as completely right on the pain as I could, devoting all possible attention to it, unwaveringly, I could stop feeling the pain.


There are different types of pain, of course, and maybe some types do not lead to elimination by complete concentration.  I rarely read or hear of others trying to deal with pain by focusing on it.  I realize that our natural tendency is to try to escape pain, to run from it or hide from it.  Focusing attention of some other part of the body or on a movie or music can also help.  But doing so often plays into getting more license to the pain, since when we are not attending, it can try to serve the natural alarm function.

Distractions and dissociation, where I focus on a task or pretend I am far away in a wonderful or exciting adventure, can work, I suppose. I do know that when I am giving my shoulder the hanging treatment recommended by Dr. John Kirsch,  dangling by my hands for up to 30 seconds, I can definitely put up with the discomfort in my palms better if I focus my attention on a tree outside blowing in the wind.  I rarely read of using strong attention right on the pain but for me, it can work well.

The book by Levine and Phillips "Freedom from Pain" is excellent on the many things than can be done to lessen or eliminate pain.

This subject came to mind when I read Pema Chodron's short inspirational message this week.  She is the American grandmother and ex-elementary teacher who has become admired and read all over the world on applying mental and Buddhist ideas to life.  

Her message this week came from Pema Chodron - "Living Beautifully"


When you contact the all-worked-up feeling of shenpa [getting hooked on a negative emotion], the basic instruction is the same as in dealing with physical pain. Whether it's a feeling of I like or I don't like, or an emotional state like loneliness, depression, or anxiety, you open yourself fully to the sensation, free of interpretation. If you've tried this approach with physical pain, you know that the result can be quite miraculous. When you give your full attention to your knee or your back or your head—whatever hurts—and drop the good/bad, right/wrong story line and simply experience the pain directly for even a short time, then your ideas about the pain, and often the pain itself, will dissolve.

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