Recently, I have been asked to speak at some seminars about the impact of serious injury on the emotional and mental health of people. This has been a great opportunity for me to talk about my belief that mindfulness is a key component in helping people to help heal themselves.
For most of us, we will experience some form of physical pain at some time in our lives. Thankfully most of the time the pain is short-term like a newborn’s hunger pain quickly subsiding with a drink of its mother’s milk. A scraped knee from a young child’s fall is quickly forgotten with a kiss from a caregiver.
Sometimes there is pain that can feel extremely uncomfortable and lasts a bit longer, such as the pain from childbirth labor, an injury, or after a surgical procedure. However, this type of pain is acute, and once the baby is born or the incision begins to heal, the pain gradually becomes a distant memory.
Then there is pain that becomes long-term. This is the pain where our bodies are telling us that something is amiss – there is something within our health or physical structure that is not healing (cancer, arthritis, or failed neurological/orthopedic surgeries to name a few). This is what we call Chronic Pain.
Chronic Pain can be unrelenting and the people who are dealing with it have a significant life change. Their entire life becomes centered solely on the pain and how to relieve it. I actually view the pain as a type of addiction – it affects not only the person with the pain, but their families and their livelihood. Everthing in life changes to accomodate the pain.
When we experience pain, we tend to suck in our breath and forget to breathe normally. The breath becomes shakey and shallow, the number of breaths decrease, limiting the amount of oxygen that is being taken in to the body.
In yoga and meditation, we focus on simple breathing techniques. The simple act of focused breathing allows oxygen to flow into our lungs and bloodstream – giving healing energy to our cells. Breathing into an area of pain can be done simply by closing one’s eyes (to eliminate visual distractions), taking a nice breath through the nose and exhaling through the mouth, and keeping the abdomen soft to allow the greatest exchange of air to take place. With each breath, one should try to take a little deeper breath, focusing on breathing oxygen into the area of physical discomfort. It helps to imagine the pain is being pulled out by the exhaled breath and removed from the body.
Some studies have stated that as we exhale, the carbon dioxide that we breathe out, actually grabs Cortisol removing that stress hormone from the body in the exhale.
Chronic pain is very real. In our Western medicine mindset, we have utilized opiates and synthetic derivatives to help with pain relief. Unfortunately, the use of these drugs are not a long-term solution because they stop the naturally ability of our brains to manage our pain. A vicious cycle occurs where the opiates need to be increased because the brain is no longer functioning normally. The more opiates that are taken, the greater the risk for accidental overdose can occur, impacting the respiratory system and the ability to breathe.
Prince’s death last month was a true gift in the world of chronic pain. The world saw first hand how chronic pain medicated by opiates and end-stage cancer type drugs (i.e. Fentanyl) can kill. I hope that his death will help bring awareness and a stronger effort to try alternative means of helping those afflicted with chronic pain. To find ways to help those in chronic pain to use their own minds to assist in healing themselves. To help find pain relief through mindful thought, mindful breath, mindful movement, and mindful eating, while being surrounded by circles of support. Support consisting of those skilled in holistic modalities and techniques such as yoga, Qigong, acupuncture acupressure, Reiki, healing touch, and perhaps spiritual teachers who can help people understand and believe that one can heal oneself.
As a gift to my readers, I am attaching the following Healing meditation link that I recorded for my newsletter a few months ago:
If you enjoy this meditation, please sign up for my weekly newsletter which provides a link to a free meditation each week. You can sign up on the Welcome page on this site.
If you are interested in hearing more about mind.body.spirit. medicine for treating chronic pain, please contact me at 952-210-3767 or through the contact page on this site.
I would love to have people share some of their stories where people have healed themselves through a mind-body medicine approach. You can share your story in the comments section of this page.