Lately I have been in an unbearable amount of pain. A few months ago I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. RA is one of those pesky autoimmune diseases where the immune system attacks itself. Unfortunately it’s attacking my right wrist in a pretty bad ass way. What’s amazing is just how unpredictable it seems to be and also how much it hurts. Being in pain is like being in a constant bad mood. I am just a little bit cranky all of the time. It’s also affecting other parts of my body. I protect my wrist from possible pain by tensing my shoulders and tightening my jaw. In doing that I am most likely causing the pain in my wrist to worsen because I can’t relax.
Most of you know that I am a mindfulness maniac and I believe we should all be paying more attention to our bodies, our minds and our meals, but our pain? I mean come on, why would I want to purposely draw attention to this part of my body that hurts so bad I want to cry sometimes. I don’t want to pay more attention to it. I want to escape it. I want drugs. Give me something to take the pain away!
Unfortunately my doctor doesn’t make 8pm drug runs on a Monday night so I was stuck with mindfulness. I sat down on my sofa and looked at my hand. I started to describe to myself what I saw without any judgment. I described the way the skin looked on my wrist. I counted the freckles and hiked the terrain of my veins with my eyes. Next I began to describe the feelings in my wrist and hand. Words like sharp and tightness and warm and cold and pulsing began to surface. I stopped labeling these sensations as the thing that is pain and rather as the sensations coming and going. Because it’s true that the pain does come and go and if I focus on the pain, this thing that I hate, my zoom lens is incapable of seeing anything but it. If I keep telling myself how painful it is, I risk getting caught up in un-mindfulness and I am making pain the enemy. If I instead describe the feelings and the present moment, it becomes something else. It's not something bad or good, it just is.
Does this make sense? Mindfulness is not about just paying attention to something. It’s about paying attention without judgment. Just notice it. Be curious about it. Describe it.
This week I would love for everyone to join me in taking a look at your pain and actually noticing what it feels like. No pejorative terms allowed. Instead use words like heavy, tight, tingling, sharp, tense, stiff and dull. You can use pain that’s emotional or physical. Mindfulness can work for both; in fact, it’s great for both. And it’s actually been proven to help reduce overall “pain” and change our brains for the better, so there.
So get focused, get present, and get rid of pain for good.Be Good to your Body, it's where you Live