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How Welcoming Pain Can Actually Get Us the Relief We Want

Living with pain can sometimes feel like half living. A part of you is always tied up with the pain, strategizing how to beat it or bracing against it. Imagine not having to micromanage your pain, or have it be surrounded by stiffness. Imagine being able to rest in your body as it is now.

Over the next few Thursdays, I’ll be introducing a three-step process for transforming the restless mind and stiff body of chronic pain into a fluid, healing experience. You don't have to run from pain. You can feel like you belong in your body.

And the first step is Welcoming.

“Welcoming” means:

• Acknowledging our bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions.

• Picking our gaze up, so to speak, from whatever we are working on or struggling with, and simply feel, for a moment, what it feels like to be a human being right now.

• Having a sense of softness, or compassion, for whatever we’re experiencing even if it’s messy, overwhelming, or feels frozen.

 

What welcoming is not:

• An analytical pursuit or anything we need to figure out, i.e. “How can I stop this?”

• Artificial enthusiasm – “Thank you for this unending back pain!” We don’t have to like or be grateful for what we notice. We’re just acknowledging what is simply there, even if what is there is resentment.

 

So how do you do it?

 

You can try these 3 simple techniques for welcoming:

• Look around. This helps remind you of the world outside your thoughts.

• Take a couple of deep breaths and relax your grip on whatever activity or thought has absorbed you.

• In particular, notice your throat, chest, and stomach. These regions of the body are often rife with stress and emotional tension.

 

You can’t get this part “wrong.” Whatever you notice is gold, however messy, incoherent, or trivial it appears. So much of what exacerbates pain and stress is that we focus on trying to make some part of us different, or we focus on how we should be feeling. Yet, the kind of relationship that helps heal chronic pain and manage stress is a relationship with reality. That’s how we heal the rift between our imperfect body and our perfect expectations.

Next Thursday, I’ll introduce the second step which is a powerful tool for interrupting habitual patterns and will help you find more freedom in your body.

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