We have all experienced pain in life — physical and emotional. Pain is our body’s way of alerting us to something that is not right. Agonising though it may be, sometimes chronic pain becomes such a part of people’s everyday lives that they must learn how to live with it. This is where mastering mindfulness for pain can help.
Samantha Wood is someone who has experienced a lot of pain in her life. The single mum was assaulted a decade ago by a man who left her half-blind and with a prolapsed disc that forced her to walk with a stick.
According to Samantha, this horrific experience is also the root of her ongoing battles with anxiety and depression. Her trauma peaked this year when she was unable to seek swift medical attention during the pandemic and she attempted to take her life. Knowing she needed to take matters into her own hands, Samantha discovered mindfulness for pain.
Samantha, who achieved a distinction in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Diploma with Centre of Excellence, told us, “Mindfulness for pain changed my life. I can now understand my pain and live happily with it. I used to never go out without my stick but now I don’t need to use it.”
Samantha began her learning journey with Centre of Excellence when her depression became too difficult to manage. “I had a meltdown in the first lockdown,” Samantha recalled. After surviving her attempt to take her life, Samantha said she “saw it as a sign that I was here for a reason and that was to get better and help others”.
Prioritising her mental health and “wanting my anxiety under control”, Samantha began the Anxiety Management Diploma and the Dealing with Depression Diploma. While studying helped Samantha learn to control her anxiety and help herself and others with depression, she was still left with chronic pain as a result of the assault.
To make matters worse, Samantha has epilepsy. She told Centre of Excellence this exacerbates her difficulties, as her anxiety leads to excessive stress causing her to have epileptic fits. As a cruel additional consequence, the fits she experiences inflame the chronic pain in her legs from the prolapsed disc. Whenever this occurs, Samantha needs at least 48 hours to recover.
So, Samantha turned to mindfulness for pain.
The basic principle of mindfulness for pain is that, oftentimes, trying to ignore pain doesn’t help sufferers who simply want the pain to go away. With this negative, frustration-fuelled approach to debilitating pain management, we often make ourselves feel worse. By taking notice of our pain, rather than tuning it out, we might notice certain things about the sensation - perhaps it gets worse at certain times of day, or it ebbs and flows where we’d previously perceived it as constant. Just having this knowledge and awareness could help you manage chronic pain.
Indeed, Samantha “learned how I could befriend my pain”. She learned specific and tailored mindfulness techniques that have helped her differentiate between painful moments “and see I was not always in pain”. “Soon after, I felt strong enough to not use my walking stick, as I had more control over the pain.”
Samantha practices the technique of body scanning every morning and every night. As part of the body scanning method, she also finds it helpful to send love and light to every part of her body and, as part of her mindfulness for pain practice, she thanks her body daily, for keeping her strong.
There are other techniques to boost mindfulness for pain that might be of use, such as deep breathing, releasing pain through visualisation, and welcoming cleansing and healing energy into your body. The Chad technique, employed by Tibetan monks for centuries, can also be implemented to release the fear of pain and enable you to sit with your pain in day to day life.
There’s a five-step method you can work through that may help you to live with chronic pain:
- Awareness: Become aware of your pain and all that you feel in the present moment. This is the starting point of mastering mindfulness for pain.
- Move towards the unpleasant: Learn not to block out or wallow in your pain. Develop a curiosity and understanding of your pain by shedding light on it.
- Seek the pleasant: Take note of the good sensations, not by blocking out the bad, but by acknowledging that there is no light without dark and that we can choose on which we focus.
- Broaden your awareness: See yourself and your pain as interconnected parts of a much bigger whole – a world constantly changing.
- Responding Versus Reacting: Learn to make choices when it comes to your pain and how you respond to it, in a manner best for you at that moment.
Samantha said she discovered “a lot about many other things” on her learning journey but that mindfulness for pain was her breakthrough and she’s now able to be more mindful in all aspects of her life.
She said, “Wanting to die and finding Centre of Excellence was a turning point for me. I am so blessed to have found CoE and learn that to be mindful and not worry made my life a life worth living. These courses saved my life in lockdown.”
After successfully completing further studies in Addiction Therapy, First Aid for Mental Health and Law of Attraction, Samantha is now determined to help others, saying, “I believe if I can help anybody with any problems then my work is done”.
She also has bipolar disorder and, with a friend, has set up a charity called The Bipolar Project. After offering workshops, Samantha is now looking for new ways to help others and support people, through volunteer work.
For now, Samantha is taking life day by day, practising her mindfulness for pain for the fulfilment and happiness she deserves.
True to her desire to help others, Samantha concluded with these words: “Mindfulness saved me. It teaches you how to live a better life. You can have a life without the need to stress or worry. It’s a waste of time. Life is for living.”