It’s natural when in pain to try and get out of it as quickly as possible. Chronic pain can leave a person feeling exhausted, distracted and hopeless.
Our culture is inundated with drugs to kill pain, but drugs have limitations and a heavy price to bear with long-term use.
Bob Stahl has studied the use of meditation and relaxation to deal with pain. As director of the mindfulness-based stress-reduction programs at Dominican Hospital and the Santa Cruz Medical Clinic, he approaches pain not by trying to get rid of it — but by embracing it with awareness.
Approaching life with mindfulness has its roots in Zen spiritual practice. It is an approach where you face your pain head on.
Rather than trying to escape by struggling and fighting (ultimately creating more exhaustion), mindfulness musters your energy to explore sensations, feelings, thoughts while staying present and in the moment through it all.
Embracing pain becomes a tool for transforming your health and well being.
A long time practitioner of insight meditation, Stahl lived for eight years in a Buddhist monastery. He has extensive experience working with people with physical disabilities, chronic pain, life-threatening illnesses and stress-related disorders.
Stahl says if you feel stressed, question your mindset. He realizes that it is not what happens to us but how we relate to the challenges of living that makes life either a learning experience or a tragedy.
Someone wise once said, “Pain is a part of yourself asking to be let back in.” It is a koan well worth meditating on.
Liz Koch is the Way of Life Health education coordinator.