Mindful practice can be a most useful resource on transforming and overcoming persistent pain.
To transform and overcome persistent pain, we need practices, tools, resources and a way of thinking that encourages us to take action.
From wherever we start the journey, there is always possibility and opportunity. This is the positive approach, not to be confused with positive thinking.
The positive approach is to have a clear picture of success that you are working towards. In essence, this is a route of mastery as you seek to shape your future by your actions now.
Improving your life is an active process. You make the decisions and take the steps. Hopefully you have a supporter, guide and encourager by your side. That is my role as a pain coach.
Why mindful practice?
There are many practices to draw upon. Mindfulness is one. It has become popularised, which has pluses and minuses.
With more people practicing, there is great hope. However, there are some common pitfalls. Here are a few:
- You are practicing to get somewhere, be someone or achieve something
- Mindfulness is to relax
- Mindfulness is difficult
- I need to practice an hour a day
There are others.
So if mindfulness is not about that, what is it for?
Mindfulness is simply being awake to what is happening now in a non-judgemental way. You may notice how you immediately ‘judge’ this statement. We do this all the time. We are conditioned to judge, as we are to think in certain ways and believe certain things about the world and ourselves.
Being mindful means that you are able to see this for what it is: just a story that has been learned. And we all edit our stories according to our world view.
Being awake is not always relaxing or pleasant. It is not meant to be so. You feel your emotions, you are aware of what is happening in this moment. But with practice, you are free yourself from the trappings of past experiences and the future. Neiter of these exist except in the form of the stories we tell oursleves. How attached we are to these stories will impact upon the level of suffering.
If I repeatedly tell myself, not on purpose of course, that I cannot get better, then there will be no action in that direction. There are many reasons why someone might hold that belief, and these are not their fault. It is because of what they have been told and consequences acted upon. This is the real danger of the messages given by healthcare and society about pain.
Mindfulness allows you to awaken to what is really happening. It is more than a daily practice. It is a way of being. You can sit or be lying and practice. But we seek to be mindful in all that we do so that we are there as much as we can be, coming back to the present when the mind wanders. And it does; often.
As you understand your own embodied mind and how your thinking emerges from your body, you realise your potential. Simple experiments in focus and movement demonstrate how your thinking and motion are one — we do this in sessions so that you can experience your own potential.
Some call mindful practice focused attention training. We become better at focusing, which has been shown to increase our sense of happiness (read here).
Our attention can be scattered. So many stimuli in the modern world. So much stuff trying to grab our attention. It is relentless and causing much suffering.
Moments of contemplation through the day when you create space, slow down and re-charge are vital skills of being well. You could choose to just take a moment now. I am.
I have simply been present, followed one breath in and out, felt my feet on the floor, and then continued writing.
How should I start?
Ideally with someone who can guide you. You will have questions that need answering. Working with a trusted person forms a connection that is powered by a positive energy. You will feel it. That’s is what we are designed to do as humans: connect with each other.
You can read some of the quality authors: Thich Nhat Hanh, John Kabat-Zinn, Pema Chodron. My advice is to go to these sources rather than the many others who have written books based on the writings of others.
On apps, there is just one that I recommend. Waking Up by Sam Harris is by far the most learned, in my opinion. The instruction is excellent. Plus, there are teachings, talks and other resources on this ever growing app. You can even give this as a gift to someone you care about.
My encouragement to you
Is to try.
Mindfulness will allow you to explore your own embodied mind.
This can seem daunting sometimes — do you like to just sit in a quiet space? Sit with yourself and your own thoughts?
Many people do not. They are not accustomed to just being. Yet in the heart of this is peace and clarity.
You will have your own experience, so I cannot tell you what it will be like. But I do know that you will make some remarkable discoveries.
Pain Coaching is the approach that I have been pioneering over the past 10 years or so, to help people who are suffering on-going pain and injury. The focus is on the person, what they want to achieve in life and the steps to take to get there. I am here to educate, enable and empower the person to move forward and shape a positive future using practical tools and strategies. I want you to live a fulfilling life.
Pain Coaching is a blend of my training and experiences over the past 27 years in healthcare. If you were to put into a bowl the following ingredients, mix it up, bake it slowly and then take it out of the oven, this would be pain coaching: nursing, sport science, rehabilitation, physiotherapy, strengths-based coaching and pain neuroscience.