“Mindfulness for Pain Relief: Guided Practices for Reclaiming Your Body and Your Life,” by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness for Pain Relief: Guided Practices for Reclaiming Your Body and Your LifeVidyamala, a long-term pain sufferer, rejoices in a new offering from Jon Kabat-Zinn, but experiences regret it wasn’t available years ago.

I was delighted to to be asked to review this new offering from the founder of mindfulness in healthcare: Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn. It is a two-CD audio book combining extensive background information with guided meditations.

Disc One (session one)

The first CD (or session as the CD is labeled) is entirely taken up with short lectures on various aspects of applying mindfulness to chronic pain of any sort. I listened avidly and welcomed everything he had to say and feel. Jon comes across with real depth and understanding of what it is like to apply mindfulness to pain.

As someone who uses mindfulness and meditation to manage chronic back pain myself, I felt a pang that this material was not available 25 years ago when I was first learning to meditate. I’m sure it would have made my journey a lot easier and more effective as he deals very directly with the mystery of how to be with experience when it is painful. One phrase I particularly liked was “tuning IN trumps tuning OUT”. In other words: if we can resist the natural response of endless distraction and aversion to pain and engage with the pain directly, then the overall suffering will diminish greatly.

Title: Mindfulness for Pain Relief: Guided Practices for Reclaiming Your Body and Your Life
Author: Jon Kabat-Zinn
Publisher: Sounds True
Content: 2 CDs
ISBN: 1-59179-740-3
Available from: Sounds True and Amazon.com.

He also makes the crucial distinction between pain and suffering: Pain is the sensations of discomfort that may be unavoidable; suffering is the ways we react to pain that just makes it worse. All the information on the CD offers deep and profound ways to learn to be with the pain and to eliminate the suffering. He also draws on his own experience of applying mindfulness to pain within a clinical setting at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. He refers to research studies and this gives the CD credibility. I was particularly interested to hear about studies that show mindfulness is more effective than distraction when trying to live with severe pain.

The tracks on Disc one are as follows:
Track 1: Introduction
Track 2: Diving right in – Jon begins with an awareness of your body and everything around you.
Track 3: Learning to live with pain – Living with pain is a workable process if you are willing to do daily work. Pain may be unavoidable, but suffering is optional. You have nothing to lose in walking this path.
Track 4: Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) – a detailed description of the MBSR programme and scientific basis of this work as part of new field of medicine: Mind/body or Integrative medicine.
Track 5: Seven principles for working with pain –

Principle 1: There is more right with you than wrong with you and mindfulness will help mobilize inner resources.
Principle 2: The Power of Now (vs living in the past or future.)
Principle 3: The “Now” is not always exactly what we want. We usually want something different.
Principle 4: If experience is not what we want, we usually respond in two ways –- either denial or overwhelm.
Principle 5: Mindfulness offers a third way – turning toward what we most fear to feel and open gradually to its experiences. Learn resilience.
Principle 6: Open to experience moment-to-moment with kindness toward oneself without judging the experience (try not to judge or react automatically), Working with mindfulness helps it to become our new default setting.
Principle 7: we are not “fixing” anything, we are just dealing with it in the present moment.

Track 6: Cultivating mindfulness – Jon suggests we listen to this CD until it becomes second nature to us, along with using the second CD to practice with. He offers some tips in terms of finding a quiet place to practice, etc.

Disc Two (session two)

The second session is devoted to guided practices with instruction. Jon has a very pleasant voice and his many years experience of meditation teaching are immediately obvious. The content is precise and subtle. He does talk a lot, but there is a period of silence at the end of each track where the listener can try to put the instructions in to practice for themselves.

The tracks on Disc two are as follows:
Track 1: Introduction
Track 2: The power of disciplined practice – some comments on how to deal with boredom and impatience. Just actively participate in the meditation process, even if you don’t feel like it. The value will come with the repetitive practice.
Track 3: Mindfulness of breathing guided meditation with introduction as to how to best engage with the breath. This track may be particularly useful to those learning to meditate.
Track 4: Working with pain meditation – showing you how to work with your pain through meditation. These are brief meditations in between instructions. Various strategies are introduced and then there is a silent period to try putting them into practice.
Track 5: Working with thoughts and emotions meditation – particularly thoughts and emotions about the pain.
Track 6: Resting in awareness: a three-minute mindful pause meditation
Track 7: A 20 minute body scan.
Track 8: Mindfulness in everyday life.

I highly recommend this 2 CD set for anyone wanting to learn powerful and effective ways to work with chronic pain, or indeed any manifestation of the difficult side of life.

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