Pain Clinic Week 1 - Mindfulness and Meditation

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During the first week of my top tier Intensive Chronic Pain Management class we learned about meditation and mindfulness. I took an immediate liking to this topic. I have already completed the 11 week course and I still embrace this topic beyond all the other skills I learned in the course. The benefit I have received from meditation is relaxation, intense relaxation. This has stopped a lot of the secondary pain I was having. In my last post I said I have Chronic Pain. The pain is in my legs, arms and joints. Basically, the only part of my body that does not experience pain is my torso. My pain is constant but my pain killers usually keep me from going totally insane. I do find myself wincing a LOT. The pain is so unbearable that I often tense up. This constant wincing and tensing causes what I call secondary pain. This manifests itself as sore muscles. The muscles in my neck, shoulders and back are so sore sometimes that even my wonderful full back massager can  not do me good and, in fact, makes me come close to breaking my massager altogether.



What is mindfulness and meditation?

My workbook from the class says meditation is "the art and practice of being present for your life". Huh? Yeah I know, that is what I said. I could go on to quote all the articles in my workbook or I can just summarize what I got out of it. Mindfulness is when you sit in a comfortable chair with good postures and you clear your mind as best you can for about 15 minutes. Of course when you do that, your brain starts going crazy. It's like you have given your mind a free-for-all to start worrying, thinking, stressing, and more. That is where the "art" comes in. As I used mindfulness more and more I was able to acknowledge the thoughts and worries (emphasis on worry) but put them on a mental shelf or in a mental box and move on to thinking about nothing. It is meant to place you in the here and now. Thoughts come at us like shotgun pellets all day long. Mindfulness is a way to make your mind simple for just a little while. What I like to do is begin by pretending I can see myself with a camera. I focus on myself sitting in the chair, in that room, in that building, with all the people who are there in the room or building with me. I continue to pan out to that town, that county, the state, the country...until I am but a molecule in the vastness of the universe. This makes me feel a little insignificant and more importantly, my thoughts and worries.



You can do things mindfully as well. You don't just have to sit in a chair. As you get more and more used to blanking out your mind or simplifying it for a short while, you can use it as you do simple tasks, My two favorites is walking my dog and eating ice cream. While walking my dog I listen to the sounds of my surroundings. If it is evening, it is usually very quiet. If it is morning, I hear birds and maybe cars in the distant. I love to listen to where the wind is blowing. Is it in the trees near me? Or across the street? Is the wind in the tree tops only? I feel the ground below my feet. Are my shoes supportive? Are my feet sweating? It is Spring as I write this so the air has some wonderful smells. I sniff the air and try to identify the various aromas and where they might be coming from. I like to watch my little dog's bottom wiggling along. What is he thinking? What does he smell? This is the type of simple thinking that is mindfulness. Imagine how good ice cream tastes when you only focus on the sensations and flavors! This helps me to eat slower as well. I bought myself some chocolate bars to enjoy mindfully as well because Lindt makes the most incredible White Chocolate Toasted Coconut bars I have ever experienced. I highly recommend.

There is little better than this chocolate.

Meditation is a little different. I use guided meditation so it is even more brainless. It is the meditation that helps my tense shoulders and neck the most. In class, one of the doctors would guide us on various journeys to help completely relax. He would do it all live as we lay on cushiony mats. Now that the class is over I have found plenty of places on the internet that provide free guided meditations. Here is one of my favorite stress relieving audios. It comes from Kaiser but you do not have to be a member to listen. You can google "guided meditation" and find free audio clips all over. Many are right there on YouTube. There are various types of guided meditation you will find. You can find some for stress, sleep, weight loss, self confidence, pain and even allergies. Here is a whole list that is available just on the Kaiser website.

Ricola garden in full bloom in Zermatt

One view from the stone in the Ricola garden

My view from the rock in the center of the Ricola garden

If you want to start practicing mindfulness and meditation I suggest follow the links and info I listed above. Once you begin really getting into it you will find that it helps immensely to have "trigger" tools. For example, for me, I just have to picture my dog's face and I am immediately relaxed. I have more than one trigger tool. Another one of mine is a place in Zermatt, Switzerland where I went hiking one time. This is a fantastic one for me because it exists, first of all, which means I do not have to use my rather lacking imagination. I can recall the smells, sounds and sights of the spot. I was there in Spring a couple years ago and it was the most wonderful place I had ever been. Because I have these tools, I am able to instantly relax. I have used these tools in so many meditations that it immediately takes me there.
Me, sitting in the center of the Ricola garden, my go-to meditation spot.

I hope some people reading this who have chronic pain, too much stress, or other issues that this might help, I hope they use these techniques and they help as much as it has helped me. Feel free to comment if you have anything you would like to share about your experiences or have any questions.

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