This month I did Peter Fernando’s Month of Mindfulness for Chronic Pain. This was a special course especially for people like me who ‘suffer’ from chronic pain or illness. He gave us some guided meditations, sent us regular emails with useful ideas about pain/illness to ponder and a few podcast chats to help us along the way. The course was great as we were able to go at our own pace, in our own time and pick and choose the meditations to suit. I think I will be working with the material Peter has provided for another 2-3 months as this course has been a baby step forward for me.
Overall I found the course quite interesting and a lot more challenging than I expected. I think this is mostly because at the start of the course I was still struggling to accept the situation and the fact that I need to adapt my lifestyle to suit my hips. So having spent the last year ignoring the pain and trying to avoid reality, I found sitting (or lying) for 10-30mins a day to meditate and reflect about my pain a little confronting. This was exactly what I needed though as it was time to start dealing with the emotions surrounding the pain which has been with me every day for the last 2 years.
The course was great and I managed to do a meditation at least every 2nd day. On day one I noticed how the meditations helped me to instantly relax, and as the month progressed I noticed a change in the way that I think about my pain. The pain is still there, but the suffering and anxiety around it has definitely reduced.
The key thing I learnt this month is that while I can’t do much about the physical pain, I can reduce the suffering the pain causes. This in turn reduces pain because the suffering inevitably has a physiological effect as well as a psychological one. I still get a little frustrated with not being able to do everything I want to, and I still have days when I worry about my hips and what the future has in store for me. But all and all I am feeling happier, I don’t feel the pain defines me and I am not letting it take over my life.
Peter’s key message that sums up the course is “We are always perfect, just as we are. Right now. Right here. This body. This mind.” I have noticed that with this seed firmly planted in my mind, I am less concerned about having a clear diagnosis and a “fix” to this pain. Now when I feel the sharp ‘listen to me’ pain, I acknowledge it, I listen to how I am feeling, acknowledge my thoughts/emotions, take action to relieve the pain (if possible) and then get on with my day. I find this approach a lot more useful than ignoring the pain and mindlessly pushing through it.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying pain is my friend. I’d much rather it went away and never came back… but while it’s with me, I might as well learn to live with it. The meditation definitely helps me live a happier life with my pain.