Although the purpose of meditation is not to relieve pain, it often does. I suppose you could call this a beneficial side effect. In Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief: Guided Practices for Reclaiming Your Body and Your Life, Jon Kabat-Zinn shares meditation practices that were developed at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Clinic. Over 30 years of research has demonstrated the effectiveness of medication for many conditions such as blood pressure, stress and pain relief.
This CD set includes two discs. In the first, Kabat-Zinn explains how and why meditation works and gives a soothing pep talk for those ready to try this for the first time. He outlines the seven principles that underlie mindfulness:
1. “As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong.”
2. The power of the present moment is a resource that is often overlooked.
3. The present moment isn’t always to our liking. That’s true whether you have chronic pain or not. Most of us spend a lot of energy distracting ourselves from the present.
4. The common two ways to deal with the present are to turn away from it through escape activities or to obsess on it and feel victimized.
5. A third way is to open to and befriend current experience to the degree you choose.
6. Whatever is happening, have kindness and compassion toward oneself. And suspend judgment, which contracts the mind and body and compounds pain and suffering.
7. The purpose is to not make anything go away or fix something. It is simply to find a respite through non-doing so life’s natural propensity for change and healing can take its course.
If you’re already familiar with the history and effectiveness of mindfulness practices, you might be tempted to skip to the second disc and that’s OK, but the first one is quite interesting.
The second disc includes several meditations of varying lengths, starting with a simple, short breathing meditation and one 18 minute practice. Even if you’re not the type to sit still with hands folded in your lap for any length of time, I think the way it is presented is a good start for anyone who is coping with chronic pain.
In The Pain Chronicles, Melanie Thernstrom tells of Franz Mesner who was able to tranquilize patients with his voice, which coined the term “mesmerize.” Jon Kabat-Zinn’s voice has this quality. Just by listening to the CDs, without even doing the meditations, I dropped into the calm, soothing nature of his voice and let go of a layer of stress.