Compassion For Pain

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Pain gets a bad rap. We all experience pain of one form or another throughout the course of our lives. The source may be at any level: mental, emotional, physical, subtle energetic, even spiritual. With as much pain as there is in the world today, it is surprising there aren't more and better known solutions for managing or eliminating pain. There are, however, certain ways of dealing with pain that are free, simple to learn, and when skillfully applied, are powerful in their effect .

Perhaps some compassion for pain is needed.

Typically, pain at the physical level is treated with over the counter pain relievers like analgesics, as well as, prescription pharmaceuticals. Each level of human experience, while distinct, is influenced in myriad ways by the other levels and when the mental-emotional level is brought to bear on physical pain it has a very real, if often unrecognized, effect. "The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven," wrote Milton. How does this relate to pain?. Specifically, one's mental focus of attention and emotional attitude brought to bare reveals much about the experience of pain itself.

Anyone who has known chronic pain will understand that one has time to be with their pain and explore one's relation to it. The usual response to pain - the quick and dirty evolutionary survival response hardwired into the nervous system - is immediate aversion. When something hurts us we move away from it as quickly as possible to avoid the source; a hand pulling away from a red hot stove being the standard example. During chronic pain the body continues bringing the pain and one is unable to avoid the source. Or can we? Do we want to?

Actually, research and studies demonstrate that being present with one's pain can alleviate quite a bit of the experience of pain itself. In certain Eastern traditions which involve long hours of meditation, pain from sitting in a single position for an extended period of time is a common challenge that must be overcome to reach even deeper states of meditation. In this case, the pain is used as an object of meditation. The individual observes the pain from a perspective of detachment until one is able to dissipate and abide the sensation.

Next time you experience pain try this practice:
First, on a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being excruciating pain, gauge your pain. Now close your eyes and sit quietly. Focus your awareness on your breath. Relax. Breath normally, slowly and deeply so that you are pulling down and out with your belly and diaphragm instead of breathing shallowly from the chest. Next, put your awareness on the location of the pain.

Notice the way in which your mind and body want to ‘move away' from the pain. Bring your awareness back to the pain and continue breathing in a relaxed manner. Practice being with the pain from the perspective of a neutral observer. Gauge you pain again from 0 to 10. Now imagine peeling away the ‘pain' label and observe the pain as ‘sensation' and gauge your pain number again. Finally, remove the label of ‘sensation' and observe the ‘sensation' from the perspective of just ‘energy'. Gauge once.

Typically, when you relax and breathe as described above, each time you peel away another label the pain reduces by several points. Make sure you really see, feel and believe the labels are coming away to reveal an even deeper place so that you experience your detached observer perception shift from one of pain to sensation to just plain energy. Lastly, practice, practice, practice and you will find yourself with a powerful new technique for pain management.

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