I came across the work of American self help guru Byron Katie ten years ago. She has published a variety of books which offer a series of simple questions designed to challenge and overturn your perception of any situation you’re struggling with. The questions work by flooding your mind with the ‘fresh air’ of a new (often reversed) perspective.
It’s an appealing technique when you’re in pain. But her techniques always struck me as being like Paracetamol – a short term solution. My old views always came back, dragging their long tail of complicated emotional responses. What’s more, the persistence and tenacity of my habitual thought patterns endowed them, to my thinking, with truth.
Buddhist … Read more »
One of my meditation students, Janette, wrote saying that doing a body scan meditation had helped her with pain:
I have tried the body scan twice and love it ! I suffer a lot with arthritic pain and felt I was floating above all this during the scan. Really felt the breath flowing through the body and then there was only the breath and I was absolutely pain free and so at peace.
Sometimes when we have pain we focus on it in a rather “obsessed” way, so that it fills the whole of our experience. I suspect that what’s happening in your Janette’s is that she’s experiencing all the things that are “not pain” … Read more »
I wrote a few weeks ago about the Kindseat, which is a new design of meditation seat that allows for both cross-legged sitting and kneeling (seiza) positions. It’s undoubtedly the most comfortable meditation seat I’ve ever used, and I can’t imagine ever needing another meditation bench. I wish I had two: one for home, and another for the office, where I often sit.
I’ve been through a number of meditation seats in the last 30 years. I had a couple of home-made benches, but those were non-adjustable. For shorter periods of meditation, they would be fine, but on meditation retreats, when I was doing … Read more »
The wonderful folks at Buddhist Geeks bring us this video from their 2012 conference. Here, researcher Kelly McGonigal shows us what happens in the brains of non-meditators, new meditators, and experienced meditators when they’re exposed to physical pain or emotionally distressing images. The findings are fascinating!
Meditators are well aware that pain is not suffering. Our most common reaction to pain is to want it to stop. And so we start up an inner monolog around the pain: “This is horrible! This is never going to end! Why me? Stop!!!” But meditators know that if you have physical pain this can be experienced simply as a physical sensation, albeit an unpleasant one.
The research McGonigal … Read more »
Marge, a woman in our meditation community, was in a painful standoff with her teenage son. At fifteen, Micky was in a downward spiral of skipping classes and using drugs, and had just been suspended for smoking marijuana on school grounds. While Marge blamed herself — she was the parent, after all — she was also furious at him.
The piercings she hadn’t approved, the lies, stale smell of cigarettes, and earphones that kept him in his own removed world — every interaction with Micky left her feeling powerless, angry, and afraid. The more she tried to take control with her criticism, with “groundings” and other ways of setting limits, the more withdrawn and defiant … Read more »
Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times: Meditation this week won the scientific stamp of approval from a federal panel as a means of reducing the severity of chronic and acute pain. The influential committee also concluded the practice of mindfulness has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing stress and anxiety, but it found the scientific evidence for that claim weaker and more inconsistent.
As a therapy to promote positive feelings, induce weight loss and improve attention and sleep, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality was less impressed with meditation. The group concluded there is currently an insufficient body of scientific evidence to conclude meditation is …
Meditation can change the way a person experiences pain, according to a new study by University of Wisconsin-Madison neuroscientists.
The researchers found that during a pain experiment, expert meditators felt the discomfort as intensely as novice meditators, but the experience wasn’t as unpleasant for them.
Images of brain regions linked to pain and anxiety may explain why. Compared to novice meditators, experts had less activity in the anxiety regions.
Not only did the experts feel less anxiety immediately before pain stimulation, they also became accustomed to the pain more quickly after being exposed repeatedly to it.
The scientists, based at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, … Read more »
We sat in the cool, calm and peaceful surroundings of The (Breast Cancer) Haven in Fulham, London. We closed our eyes and listened to Dr. Caroline Hoffman take us through a Mindfulness experience. This form of meditation was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre in the 1970’s and has become hugely popular with all sorts of unlikely participants.
We were there to see and hear how it might benefit not only those with breast cancer, but almost everyone. We concentrated on our breathing, trying to be “in the moment”, focusing on the five senses and, all the time …
Many years ago when I was pregnant with my son, I decided to have a home birth without drugs, assisted by a midwife. My hope was to be as wakeful and present as possible during the birth, and while I knew the pain would be intense, I trusted that my meditation and yoga practices would help me to “go with the flow.”
When labor began I was rested and ready. Knowing that resisting the pain of contractions only made them worse, I relaxed with them, breathing, making sounds without inhibition, letting go as my body’s intelligence took over. Like any animal, I was unthinkingly immersed, instinctively responding to the drama unfolding through me, riding the … Read more »
I have a vertebra that tends to slip out of alignment. Regular visits to my chiropractor keep it in place and prevent too much discomfort, but when I’m on retreat my back sometimes gets so painful that I have to lie down to meditate.
When I first had to do this on retreat, the posture that was suggested was the Alexander semi-supine position, where you lie on the back, with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor, and the head raised on a cushion.
This is comfortable, but it’s very hard to stay alert in this position, and I’d tend to fall asleep. Even if I didn’t fall asleep my head would … Read more »