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Mindful : April 2015
and they become much more manageable. I can simply feel the sensations for what they are. How strong are the sensations? What are the main quali- ties right now? Stabbing? Tearing? Pressure? Heat? I can feel what emotion I have about the pain in this moment, and once again in the next moment. Is it sadness or more frustration? Anger? Fea r? And I can see how the story, the meaning, deeply influences both how I feel about the pain a nd how I actually experience the unpleasant sensations. Breaking down the components decreases the ping-ponging back and forth, with its dangerous potential to spiral out of control. It becomes more likea10+10+10,whichequals30.Imightnotbe able to handle 1,000, but I can handle 30. I asked Josie to place attention on (or “feel into”) the unpleasa nt sensations in her belly and asked, “If somebody who never had this pain before was feeling what you feel right now, what would they make of it?” She closed her eyes and felt into her belly. She was silent for some time. Then we could see something change in her face and she started to softly cry. She said, “They would think they have a n upset stomach.” In that moment Josie could see that the actual pain was just that: unpleasant, but not over whelming. And that the overwhelm she had felt ca me from her worries about what might happen in the next couple of days and even months ahead. Her suffering was mostly from her fear, not from the pain in her belly. And with mindfulness and com- passion, she was able to stay in the present moment. One moment at a time. Vidya mala Burch, author of the books Living Well with Pain and Illness and You Are Not Your Pain, has a history of multiple broken vertebrae after a car accident. After a very long period of struggling a nd fighting with the pain before starting a dedicated mindfulness practice, she reports, “For many years I saw my back pain as a sign of failure and tried unre- alistically to find cures instead of taking respon- sibilities for my reactions to the pain. When I saw that the pain was a natural part of life, I felt relief. I realized my lack of accepta nce was far more painful tha n the back pain itself.” Harnessing the power of self-compassion with the wisdom of mindfulness practice we can approach pain in a new way and get to know it and befriend it in ways never thought possible. Suffer- ing really ca n become optional. More and more moments at a time. ● Unexamined pain often feels like it’s unchanging or always present. Prove that wrong by paying attention. mindful practices insight 76 mindful April 2015