I’ve been dealing with chronic pain in my back and hip for some time now. I just want to avoid it all, distract myself, eat some ice cream, put my feet up, get comfortable.
There is certainly a time for distraction. Yet mindfulness practice suggests turning towards instead of running away. Why would I want to do that when getting away is so much more comfortable? I struggle with that question.
When I move away from what’s happening in my body, I can see the walls moving in tighter and tighter. My world becomes small, my body stiff and danger seemingly lurks everywhere. Mindfulness practice, being aware, actually makes that ever more painfully obvious.
I’ve gradually come to see that I have no real choice. Well I always have choice. What I mean is that when I take that difficult step into whatever is unpleasant, when I come to know what is really happening within that unwanted sensation, it’s no longer so threatening. It’s no longer just an amorphous pain in my back. It’s no longer a thought, a concept. It’s sensation. It’s something that I can explore and really come to know. It’s constantly changing. Sometimes it’s intense. More often it’s not. I begin to see from direct experience what helps and what hinders, what I can do for myself and what type of support I might want to ask for. I learn to tailor exercise to my exact needs rather than to some concept of what I should be doing. I find a way to see my wholeness without denying my limitations and to dance with life in the midst of “the full catastrophe” of what life throws at me, as Jon Kabat Zinn puts it.
The body scan is a meditation practice that can support you in becoming curious about and mindful of body sensations.
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