Friday, May 16, 2008

Mindfulness and Healing

Where have you spent the last 24 hours? How often was your mind aware of your body? If you’re not in your body, where are you? Probably at home when you’re at work, and at the grocery store when you’re at home, and with your kids, your spouse, your parents, orphans in Africa, soldiers in Iraq, and many other places.

Sometimes pain is a reflection of this fractured consciousness. Although it seems counterintuitive to bring awareness back to what seems to be the source of the pain—the body—actually, it’s a profound learning experience that can dramatically reduce pain.

In Transformation and Healing, Thich Nhat Hanh gives easy-to-follow exercises and identifies several benefits of mindfulness: calming the body and becoming aware of where the body is, what it’s doing, and how the parts interrelate.

Calming the body reduces pain that comes from tension and anxiety. Becoming better aware of body position and action gives the opportunity to prevent the continual microtrauma that we inflict on ourselves everyday. Reflecting on the body parts individually and collectively increases pleasant feelings from the many places in the body that are working well and not hurting.

I first learned how powerful meditation can be from a nurse who discovered this method to relieve her back pain. She credits non-judgmental awareness with developing inner awareness. What could be better for your health? She now offers meditation courses and has an information-packed website.

Bringing attention to your breath is powerful. It reflexively brings calm and energy. Meditation doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

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