Soften into the Siddhi of Pain Release
“Storms make trees take deeper roots.” - Unknown
Pain is a wild phenomenon. First it is a signal warning us, then, over time it becomes a cascade of systems. Pain can overwhelm, take over, loose our control and mastery away from us, like a runaway horse.
However, just as storms test the resilience of trees leading to greater strength and deeper roots, so can pain be a doorway to learning a new and more resilient response to difficulty. Pain may be the doorway through which you learn to live a new way of life with greater strength, wisdom, and mastery of your mind and body. With deeper roots. And greater power, so that your energy fuels you instead of your pain.
So, instead of a runaway horse, you have the horse returned, calmly comfortable in the stables - a metaphor for having the power back in your powerhouse, a resilient strength present in your body and mind.
Chronic Pain prevalence is estimated at 19% of Canadian adults, thus approximately 7 million people in Canada living daily with chronic pain. Chronic pain dramatically changes a person’s life with missed work days, early retirement, lost social connections, lost romantic relationships, traumatic experiences, discomfort, lack of sleep, and reduced physical activity.
HOW MINDFULNESS CHANGES PAIN
When pain gets a hold of us, we tense up even more. The layer of our body that holds our muscles and form into shape, adjusts. This layer, called the fascia, binds within it the memory of what caused the pain - the reaction that we had to an event or circumstance, injury or trauma.
As the pain increases, our Alert System turns on to a higher volume. The Alert System in our nervous system is the Sympathetic Nervous System, which is there to protect us, but can go into overdrive.
So, how do you get out of this?
A mindfulness practice can change the way you see the pain, react to the pain, and process the pain in your brain.
THE BRAIN & PAIN
Mental processes change the way senses are perceived, including pain. This is how pain goes unnoticed when a person focuses intensely on something else. In studies on how pain perception is modulated, research shows that meditation can significantly reduce pain. A 40% reduction in pain while practicing mindfulness is seen on MRI scans of brain activity when meditating.
THE NERVOUS SYSTEM & PAIN
The science behind the power of meditation is in part the balancing of the nervous system, from sympathetic nervous system action to parasympathetic nervous system action. When the parasympathetic nervous system is active, the body relaxes and the “armour” of chronic pain - the stiffness, the caged feeling, the immobility - begins to release.
THE AMYGDALA & PAIN
The amygdala is a part of the brain that becomes highly active when we are overwhelmed. After being overwhelmed, we then can move into fight or flight, or freeze reactions. All of these can make chronic pain worse. Learn how the amygdala and stress system works, and how to change your response to stress to reduce amygdala activity and size.
MEDITATION AND SIDDHI’S
Meditation has been known for years to generate powerful abilities, called “siddhi” in the yoga tradition. Enduring extreme cold, slowing the heart rate, being aware while appearing to be in a deep sleep, and other abilities have been reported and measured scientifically.
After meditation, the brain is changed. Four areas involved in pain processing, emotional and behavioural regulation, change with meditation. The (1) primary somatosensory cortex identifies where the pain is and the level of the pain. The (2) anterior insula assesses how bad the pain is and how to react to it, the (3) anterior cingulate cortex then decides on the emotional response, and then the (4) prefrontal cortex decides how to think, behave, and act in response to the initial pain perception. Meditation reduces pain by decreasing the response of (1) the primary somatosensory cortex which leads to a feeling of control over the pain.
For a person with chronic pain, this can lead to a feeling of control over her or his life again.
To learn more, book a session or join me at a workshop. Stay tuned for more mindfulness programming . . .
Wishing you the best, always,
Dr. M. ~
Join me for small group workshops in April. We’ll create a pleasurable and personalized mindfulness practice designed to suit your reward system.