Day 115 – Perspective on Pain

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Pain. It’s the black sheep of the emotional family. In meditation, we are encouraged to cultivate a friendly attitude towards all emotions that bubble up during our sitting practice. This includes exploring pain. For a long time, I resisted this idea. After all, it seems crazy – why on earth would I spend any time thinking or feeling or exploring pain??? This is in sharp contrast to my default reaction, which is to do an about-face and immediately run in the opposite direction.

When I think about physical pain, the experience I think of immediately is the dentist. The image I get in my head is being strapped down to the dentist chair and being tortured. You know, sort of 24, Jack Bauer style.

The way I experience any dentist trip is as painful. My brain says: dentist = pain. My anxiety amplifies the discomfort and pain. Instead of being able to look at the entire experience and recognize that some moments were painful, separated by moments of no pain, I simply label any trip to the dentist office as painful.

By being mindful, I am better able to label the experience I’m having. I can experience and notice all the sensations – the friendly receptionist, the dentist asking me about my day, the music that’s playing in the background, the sensations of having water splash on my gums, the sensation of holding the x-ray films in my mouth, all the strange non-painful experiences, the pinch of the shot, and yes, even that awful feeling of the drill. Instead of spending the entire time on the dentist chair, white knuckled,  fraught with severe anxiety, and having my brain scream “this is painful!!!,” I can focus on the more pleasant and non-painful parts.

What I’m starting to learn is that acknowledging pain for what it is allows me to label everything outside of pain – relief, neutrality, joy, silliness, happiness and peace.

photo credit: SnaPsi Сталкер via photopin cc

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