Hello again to the followers of my blog and Facebook page BreathworksMK – Mindfulness Meditation and Counselling.
I hope that you are enjoying the glorious sunshine this weekend. I have had some much needed rest and relaxation with my family following a hectic work period.
A key practice of Mindfulness in Daily life as presented in the 8-week Breathworks Mindfulness for Health program is the idea of pacing of daily activities as a means of avoiding tipping into the boom-and-bust cycle. I will give details of this later in this blog post.
Here’s me enjoying the sun in my garden and definitely enjoying pacing myself! 🙂
I would like to share with you today some of the ideas from my presentation that I gave this week on ‘Creative Ways of Managing Chronic Pain’.
I had been excited to share this presentation for quite some time, as most of you who follow my page probably know.
I find it healing and motivating for me to be able to share my own experiences and what has helped me in my own chronic pain journey, in order to help others.
One of the key ideas from the presentation was linking the process of learning to live with a chronic pain, or other long-term heath condition to the process of grieving following the death of a loved one, as originally described by Elizabeth Kubler Ross in 1969.
I originally heard this idea in a talk given by Vidyamala Burch (who is shown above) in January 2018 on the Sounds True Mindfulness Summit. Where she linked her life journey and coming to terms with her chronic pain in the stages: Denial, Bargaining, Acceptance and Flourishing.
This immediately resonated with my own life experiences and journey towards accepting my own chronic pain condition and I would like to share some of this with you today:
Denial for me was a stage of being cut off from my body, by ignoring my body and it’s pain signals. In order that I could continue with my work and my desire to exercise and keep fit.
There was a lot of losses associated with this stage, including losing jobs, losing relationships and losing independence, both physically and financially, when I could no longer continue to deny the pain.
Bargaining was an interesting and somewhat frustrating stage. This was a phase of my life where I was chasing a fantasy outcome, a magical cure for the pain. On the face of it I was doing lot’s of healthy activities, but I was always feeling like a failure during this time, as these activities didn’t cure my pain. Typical thoughts were:
‘If I do enough Yoga it can cure my pain’
‘If I meditate enough it can cure my pain’
Acceptance for me is a stage that took a long time. There wasn’t one thing that helped in this process.
It was a gradual turning towards my body and the experiencing of pain. Realising that I could experience pain, but I need not suffer. As via the process of a regular meditation practice you gradually learn that pain is an unpleasant sensory experience, that waxes and wanes moment-to-moment. Also that the pain I once felt was overwhelming my whole body, may actually only be a pain in my lower back and that I could broaden my experience to include the pleasant aspects of my experience, whilst also softening into the pain using my breath. Pleasant experiences could include, the warmth of the sun on my skin, a pleasant breeze, some relaxing music etc…
I’m not saying that acceptance is an easy process, nor that I feel accepting every day. Every person with chronic pain, or other long-term health condition will know that pain varies from day-to-day and that there are likely to be both good and bad pain days. However meditation for me has given me back control of my chronic pain and on the whole the good days for me now outnumber the bad.
Key to managing pain is the idea of pacing, as presented in the Mindfulness in Daily Life part of the Breathworks meditation program. A summary of the Boom and Bust cycle is summarised in the following document.
Flourishing as described by Vidyamala, sounds like an amazing stage of life to get to. I must admit that this is a stage that I am still working on.
Flourishing is an opening up to life and using your experiences to add value to the world and those around you. This is my exact motivations for wanting to train as a counsellor and mindfulness teacher. Using my life experiences and what I have learnt to benefit the life of others. It is this process of making meaning that is flourishing 🙂
I would love to hear what you think of this process of learning to live with pain and other long-term health conditions and whether it is something that resonates with your own experiences?
I will leave you with this video of Vidyamala talking to Rick Hanson about her experiences of learning to live with chronic pain and flourishing whilst doing so:
Until next time.