Mindfulness and Pain

I think I am on the tail-end of my midlife crisis. It has been an excruciating few years as I experienced my existential crisis and it will most definitely leave its mark. Recent experience however, has me healing and viewing pain, my mental pain, in a much healthier way. It has helped me so much that I sometimes feel like I am cheating or simply using avoidance as a defense mechanism. The magic cure, at this point in time is simple: be content. When I first heard my inner vessel provide that suggestion, I scoffed. What? No way! I have far too many things to be angry about and schlep around to be content!

Then I tried it. I was desperate enough to actually listen to my inspiration. My definition of contentment was to be aware of any given moment. My pain had become habitual and I would often get vacuumed into a rabbit hole of dark and gloomy thoughts that sucked the life right out of me, or so I felt. I started my mini sessions of contentment by saying, “You are breathing. You are alive. The world has not stopped turning. You are not dying.” I was in such a deeply unquiet place that I truly had to start with those obvious facts. My woes had me feeling like I was dying inside.

“Feelings” is an F word. It has become apparent that we cannot trust them. Pain, physical or emotional, can actually be made worse by how you feel about it. The brain becomes addicted to pain. The more you feed it, the more strength it gets. It blows my mind to think that pain could actually decrease if you think about it less. This does not mean the pain does not exist; what it does mean is your mind will loosen its grip on your pain if you can think your way around it. The healthy aspect of this is not just in decreasing the pain, but when your pain lessens, you have a chance to rebuild what pain has stolen.

Approximately 100 million Americans struggle with chronic pain to some degree. Meditation or mindfulness can change that. I understand that contentment, mindfulness, and meditation are not entirely synonymous. I only mean to show we may be missing out on a therapy that is free, non-habit forming and available 24 hours a day: our minds! Meditation, or a higher mental practice, can interrupt the signals the brain has associated with pain, or how you feel about your pain. Depression and anxiety are higher when we stress about our pain and our pain gives us depression and anxiety. Stopping that cycle is integral to our health.

Pain is a patient bystander and can walk back on stage when even remotely invited. I can easily get provoked about painful issues I am facing. I can also smooth those ruffled feathers by remembering where I am at that very moment: “I am breathing. I am alive. I am okay. I can be hurt and make it through this pain.”

Our minds have the power to let in light to dispel darkness. This does not mean a person will never need medication. This does not mean you don’t need a medical professional. This means you have more light within than you know. Nelson Mandela said it perfectly, "It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us." We may think we are not worthy of living without pain. As Nelson Mandela asks, “Who are you not to be?”

Have a healthy discussion about your pain with your doctor. They can refer you to a pain clinic, or a mental health professional if needed. Need a doctor? Call Lovelace Care Concierge at 505.727.2727.

Blog submitted by Catherine Roth, Certified Community Health Worker for Lovelace Labor of Love