meditation and pain

Step two: Seeing how we can create extra suffering in our lives

Eight Step Recovery

The Buddha was asked, what is the difference between how an ordinary person and a wise person responds to pain? He replied with the analogy of the two darts. All of us experience pain – whether that is physical pain like catching your finger in the door or mental pain such as when someone rejects you. This is the first dart, which we could call primary suffering.

An ordinary person then gets caught up in trying to push away or avoid the pain; in blaming themselves or others, or feeling self-pity. This has the effect of making matters worse: the second dart, which we can call secondary suffering. A wise person just has the first dart. They don’t get stuck in avoidance or obsessing about the pain. Instead they mindfully accept it for what it is, without making it worse with secondary suffering.’ Extract from Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s teachings to Overcome Addiction.

The Eight Steps

The question is how do we become like the wise person?

The ordinary person takes refuge in distractions to help move away from the pain or suffering. The ordinary person seeks refuge in self pity, blame, and or distraction through addictions. Every time the ordinary person reacts to suffering or pain by distraction, self pity and or blame, they are re-creating a habit. Recreating a pattern of behavior that can in the end result in a matter of life and death.

Every time we turn away from the pain and or suffering, we are just delaying the inevitable. Know that turning away in the moment will create momentary release from the suffering, perhaps even pleasure, but know that misery is swiftly upon our heels.

We can become a wise person by recognizing our patterns of behavior. By seeing how we habitually turn away from our suffering and pain. However we do not become wise, until we take action and do something different.

The good news is; that it is possible to be free of psychological, existential pain and suffering. Yes we will always experience some form of physical pain, but know too that if we react, turn away from it, it will multiply it.

It’s said that the Buddha experienced chronic back and stomach pain due to the extreme austerities that he practiced during the six years before he became enlightened. In fact some say that the dyspepsia that culminated into his last serious illness of dysentery, was caused by his unhealthy eating habits during his ascetic life. He was a human being and like all of us was subject to sickness, ageing and dying. Although there is reference to this physical pain, we never hear of the Buddha complaining.

Sometimes when we clean up from addictions, and step onto the path of recovery, we become resentful of the ailments we are left with, creating more suffering in our lives. If we are to become wise, we have to learn that we have the potential to change our lives in the present moment. The present moment is what we have, and in it we can create a life of misery or a life of peace.

Becoming wise can be as simple as realizing we are not our thoughts. As simple as realizing that our thinking is not true. As simple as learning to pause. And yes I hear you. It’s not easy. But was your addiction easy? Was taking refuge in your addiction to deal with what life presented to you easy? I say that acting on these simple realizations is easier than living with any addiction, compulsive or obsessive behaviour.

Step two – pages 43 – 78

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The dark knight of the soul

wildmind meditation newsTomas Rocha, The Atlantic: For some, meditation has become more curse than cure. Willoughby Britton wants to know why.

Set back on quiet College Hill in Providence, Rhode Island, sits a dignified, four story, 19th-century house that belongs to Dr. Willoughby Britton. Inside, it is warm, spacious, and organized. The shelves are stocked with organic foods. A solid wood dining room table seats up to 12. Plants are ubiquitous. Comfortable pillows are never far from reach. The basement—with its own bed, living space, and private bathroom—often hosts a rotating cast of yogis and meditation teachers. Britton’s own living space and office are on the …

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6 meditation problems that aren’t really problems: but here’s how to fix them, anyway!

wildmind meditation newsSarah Rudell Beach, Huffington Post: You’ve begun your meditation practice. You know all the amazing benefits of meditation and are excited about this change in your routine.

And then problems set in: body aches, itching, thoughts, sleepiness. Who ever thought just sitting could be so hard?!

I’ve practiced meditation for several years, and while I enjoy meditating, I’ve hit some bumps along the way, too. We all encounter bumps along the way, don’t we? The thing is, there are no problems in meditation.

A problem is only a “problem” when we perceive it as such. In fact, meditation is a great way to …

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What does mindfulness meditation do to your brain?

wildmind meditation newsTom Ireland, Scientific American: As you read this, wiggle your toes. Feel the way they push against your shoes, and the weight of your feet on the floor. Really think about what your feet feel like right now – their heaviness.

If you’ve never heard of mindfulness meditation, congratulations, you’ve just done a few moments of it. More people than ever are doing some form of this stress-busting meditation, and researchers are discovering it has some quite extraordinary effects on the brains of those who do it regularly.

Originally an ancient Buddhist meditation technique, in recent years mindfulness has evolved into a range …

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Experienced practitioners reap genetic changes after a day of mindfulness meditation

wildmind meditation newsNational Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM): Results of a recent study cofunded by NCCAM suggest that one day of intense mindfulness by experienced meditators led to biological changes including expression of certain genes that play roles in inflammation and pain. Anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving drugs have similar effects on these genes. Findings from the study appear in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Mindfulness meditation practices are a form of training that focuses attention on breathing to develop increased awareness of the present. The study, conducted in 40 participants, focused on gaining more knowledge about molecular and genetic effects of this type of meditation and also on testing the feasibility of the study approach for future work.

Researchers divided participants into two groups. The first (active) group, which consisted of 19 people who had practiced daily meditation for at least 3 years, performed 8 hours of intensive mindfulness practice during one day. The other group, a control group of 21 people who had no experience with meditation, spent 8 hours performing quiet leisure activities in the same setting as the meditators. The researchers took blood samples before and after both interventions and analyzed them for certain biological factors, including the expression of various genes important in the regulatory processes for inflammation, circadian rhythms (which refer to the body’s internal “clock”), or histones (proteins in cells that attach to DNA). Researchers also took samples of participants’ saliva to determine the levels of the hormone cortisol as an indicator of recovery time after participants took a test that put them under acute stress.

The investigators found no significant differences between the active and control groups in these biological factors at the study’s start. However, after the interventions, the meditators showed some changes not seen in the control group. These included reduced expression levels of certain genes related to inflammation and histones. The reduced levels for two of these genes were associated with faster recovery from the stress test. No significant differences occurred between groups with respect to circadian genes.

The researchers suggested that their findings may offer a possible mechanism for explaining beneficial effects from meditation on inflammatory disorders, and an avenue for future research in chronic inflammatory conditions.

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Meditation: A stress reliever, but not a panacea

wildmind meditation newsMelissa Healy, Los Angles Times: Take a deep breath, meditation enthusiasts: A new study finds that research on mindfulness meditation has yielded moderate evidence that the practice can reduce anxiety, depressive symptoms and pain, but little to no evidence that it can reduce substance abuse or improve mood, sleep or weight control. And no evidence was found that meditation programs were better than drugs, exercise or other behavioral therapies at addressing issues of mental health.
The latest word on meditation’s effects comes from a meta-analysis–essentially a study of existing clinical trials that sifts, consolidates and distills their findings. It’s published in JAMA Internal …

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Meditation as medicine?

wildmind meditation newsBusiness2Community.com: For centuries, people have meditated to gain deeper insight and wisdom about themselves and their lives. More recently, researchers have studied meditation to gain insight about its effect on psychological wellbeing. Can it help ease pain, depression, or anxiety? Does it relieve stress, improve mood and concentration, or short-circuit substance abuse? What is its effect on sleep and weight?

To find out exactly what meditation can and cannot do, Madhav Goya, M.D., M.P.H, assistant professor of medicine in the division of general internal medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, conducted a review of the study literature to date. Dr. Goyal …

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Mind over cancer: can meditation aid recovery?

wildmind meditation newsMatthew Jenkin, The Guardian: Trials have shown that mindfulness can increase calm and wellbeing, lead to better sleep and less physical pain.

Cancer leaves many scars. For survivors, the wounds that run deepest are often those left on the mind. Fear, anxiety and depression are common during recovery. But instead of popping a pill, could practising a few minutes of mindfulness a day be as effective as any drug?

While Buddhists have been practising the meditation technique for more than 2,000 years, medical science is finally beginning to catch up, discovering the extent to which focusing the mind on the present moment can help …

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Learning to love your suffering

Woman showing compassion to a young child that she is holding.

Buddhism talks a lot about suffering, but a lot of us think that we don’t suffer, or that we don’t really suffer. There’s a tendency for us to think of suffering in terms of physical pain or material deprivation: the person with terminal cancer or a broken leg, the refugee, the starving child. So we often think of suffering as being something that’s extreme or unusual. But actually, we all suffer, every day. You may be suffering right now.

  • When you’re worrying what people think about you, you’re suffering.
  • When you feel resentful, you’re suffering.
  • When you’re impatient, you’re suffering.
  • When you’re embarrassed, you’re suffering.
  • When you’re irritated, you’re suffering.
  • When you’re feeling sad, you’re suffering.
  • When you have regrets, you’re suffering.
  • When you’re jealous, you’re suffering.
  • When you’re bored, you’re suffering.

If you look closely at your mental states over the course of any given day, you’ll probably notice that you spend a lot of time dipping in and out of suffering of one sort of another.

And if you look at the people around you, it’s a fair bet that half of them are suffering at any given time. Just notice: how many of them are showing signs of being happy?

I think one reason we deny our own suffering is because we think of suffering as a sign of “failure.” After all, we’re meant to be happy all the time, or so certain messages we receive from society tell us. But if we don’t acknowledge suffering — even our minor experiences of suffering — then we can’t do anything about it, and will continue to go about life in a sub-optimal emotional state.

So I suggest that we notice experiences of suffering, and we accept the fact of our own suffering. There’s no point fretting about the fact that we suffer; it’s not a sign of failure. It’s just a part of the experience of being human, and a fact to be acknowledged. And once we’ve acknowledged and accepted our suffering, we can start to do something about it. In particular, I suggest wishing our suffering well. Drop lovingkindness phrases into your mind — “May you be well; may you be happy; may you be free from suffering.” Just notice your suffering, give it your compassion. Love your suffering, and see what happens. You might find that once you’ve given compassion to your own pain, it’s natural to notice the suffering around you, and to respond compassionately to others.

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Mind Over Matter

wildmind meditation newsMaggie Flynn. Philly.com: Stressed out? Think it out.

Mind over matter is a difficult state to achieve, but according to a new study, meditation might provide some help in getting there.

Research from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, suggests that 30 minutes of daily meditation may help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, pain and depression.

This six-month study, led by Johns Hopkins assistant professor Dr. Madhav Goyal, found that those suffering symptoms of anxiety and depression saw “a small but consistent benefit” after an eight-week week training program in mindfulness meditation.

The research found that this type of meditation, which focuses precise attention to the …

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