Mindfulness and Physical Pain – Three Ways Practice Can Help
by Mary Jennings
It’s been almost a year. It’s been a challenge. Dealing with tendonitis in the hip that seems intractable to all the interventions of physiotherapists, orthopaedic specialists, exercises and painkillers.
I began to use another intervention – a more deliberate mindfulness approach. Firstly, mindfulness helped me turn towards the sensations in the body, describing them carefully – ‘feels like molten lava’…. or ‘cinders in the hearth’. The counter-intuitive thing is, once I had spent time with these sensations, the pain often eased. The turning towards meant the body was less contracted, there was a relief in being able to say exactly how it was.
Secondly, mindfulness has helped me became more aware of when I am falling into ‘this will never end’ thinking, allowing it to be there without judgement. Self-pity transformed into self-compassion.
Thirdly, I followed the advice of Dr Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and mindfulness teacher, to take in the good – to notice and value the resources that were available to me. Internal resources such as my mindfulness practice and a sense of my own resilience, along with external resources – access to competent and kind health care professionals, the care of family and friends. The approach counteracts our hard-wired negatively bias which inclines us to under estimate or pass over the resources – or ‘good facts’ as he names them – that are actually there. It also helps to re-wire our brain, creating a more positive bias in all areas of life.
There’s no miracle cure through medicine or mindfulness, but the journey has brought its own rewards: greater empathy and compassion for myself and others, greater patience, gratitude for the many people who have helped me and an even greater commitment to mindfulness practice in its many forms.