“You are so godly,” remarked my son many years ago when he was around six or seven years old. I was taken by surprise because it came out of nowhere, unrelated to anything we were talking about. My guess was that the meditation practice that I had been doing was starting to pay off. However, until Ian made that remark I would not have known anything about me had changed.
Through the years, as I’ve continued the practice, the more common remark is how calm I am, or that I bring a peaceful quality to where ever I happen to be. I still don’t see it and there are days when I would tell you that I’m anything but calm yet those days seemed to have dwindled. I stopped meditating for a while after my accident because it was just too painful to sit for long periods of time but eventually I went back to it. I missed it though I could not have told you exactly why at the time. Now I have some ideas.
The first benefit of meditation for the chronic pain sufferer is that the daily meditation practice can help you access a reservoir of peace. In order to heal you must move away from tension, and stress, and whatever causes you that tension. Every time you meditate it is like you peel off a layer of tension and pull on a coat of peace. After a time the tension will return but the next meditation will surround you with peace again until one day, with consistent practice, there will be little or no tension.
Not sure about you but when I’m in pain my face is often as twisted as my body feels and my mind is doing contortions around what is going on. Thinking clearly is not usually an upfront feature of my mind. This is the second benefit of meditation – it helps you think clearly. I remember reading about a NASA engineer who would go out and sit in his car to quiet his mind for thirty minutes every lunch hour. He said it helped him think clearly and make better decisions. Pain or not, those traits of clear thought and increased decision-making skills are ones that will improve life overall.
The third benefit of meditation is reduced pain. In a study by Dr. Joshua Grant he replicated the results of another study that not only lowered the perceived pain intensity but also had “demonstrated effects on sensory thresholds.” That means apart from affecting the emotional aspects of pain – the perception – Dr. Grant found the sensation itself could be reduced. In the long run that could mean less medication required for symptoms.
The great thing about mediation is that there are numerous ways to do it. You can listen to your breath, concentrate on a flower or doorknob, repeat a mantra, or listen to a guided meditation. Play with a few different types to see what suits you best. If you are having a painful moment in during the day practice your favorite technique for one minute. It takes your mind off the pain and opens up that reservoir of peace. If all you can think about is the pain, make that your object. Focus on it just as you would the flower. It is not time for a ‘pity party’ or wishing for something different. Better yet, move to a state of gratitude for the pain because it helps you develop a deeper connection with a source greater than you.
Now, I’m not going to sugar coat this, developing a mediation practice when you’ve never had one before is not the easiest thing, especially when you’re in pain. But it can be done. It only takes five minutes, twice a day, to see results. The morning coat of peace, worn out by the end of the day, is refreshed in the evening meditation and made just a little stronger - all the while reducing stress. Clearer thinking prevails and studies continue to show that in a relaxed state you can influence your pain levels. It’s worth a try!
Have you ever tried meditation? What is your preferred method?