I have been dealing with an illness caused by the varicella zoster virus called Shingles for the past two weeks. It is the same virus that causes Chickenpox. If you have had Chickenpox then you have this virus in your body in a dormant state. It can wake up at any time and cause Shingles later in life. The pain associated with this illness is excruciating. In my case it has attacked the nerves and skin on the right side of my head and face including my eye. For a week it was just a severe migraine headache. I had never had a migraine in my life and now I know what those suffering with such pain go through. Then the bumps appeared and rash. The doctor diagnosed this as Shingles and I was prescribed medication. It takes a while to stop this virus but it will clear up. The pain usually lasts about a month after the bumps and rash are gone.
I thought it would be a good time to write about meditation and physical pain while I was going through this experience myself and using meditation as a part of my coping and healing process.
The pain from this disease is unbelievable. It feels like needles and knives sticking into the right side of my head and into my right forehead and eye. On a scale of 1-10 I would consider this pain a 10. What makes it even worse is that it is constant. All day and all night the pain continues. There is no period or relief from it. Pain medications help to some extent but much of the pain continues. Knowing that this illness can last weeks and that the pain afterwards, postherpetic neuralgia or PHN, can last months can be difficult to cope with and can even cause depression. Without meditation I am not sure what I would do.
Meditation gives me the ability to cope with the pain and even rise above it. Meditation allows me to continue to function normally and to not be distracted by the pain. It also gives me the ability to lessen the pain. Once in a while the pain stops for a few minutes during meditation but it does come back.
The meditation I do to deal with the pain is very specific but is based upon the same meditations I use and teach for experiencing the Self. Here is an outline of the process. If you would like to learn this for yourself then use some of the meditations here at Life’s Answers as well as some of the guided meditations at Light Unlimited Publishing. Being successful at this requires a great deal of practice before you are in pain. If you wait until you are in pain to do this it will be much more difficult.
- Step one is to close your eyes and take some deep breaths.
- Step two is to pay attention to this moment without judgement, including the pain.
- Step three is to look closely at the pain without judgement and without fighting it. Do your best not to react to it for a few minutes.
- Step four is to feel the One who is not in pain, the Self that never experiences pain.
- Step five is to focus on the Self
- Step six is to dissolve into the Self
- Step seven is to observe the pain now as the Self. Observe the body and everything the body is experiencing objectively. The pain is a part of the scene. It is not good or bad. It is just pain.
From this perspective you can examine the pain in detail to understand its nature. Where exactly is it located? Can you discern a cause? Do you need to go to a doctor about this? You can also perform the tasks that are necessary to accomplish each moment and each day. The pain is a side issue. It is no longer overwhelming. By doing this practice the pain is usually lessened and can even dissolve.
This is the method I use. It is quite advanced and there are easier methods to use if you like. Even basic meditation can be very helpful in managing pain. The guided meditation, Meditation 1, is a great way to get started or to reinforce your existing meditation skills. For very deep relaxation for beginners I recommend the Progressive Relaxation exercise audios. Whatever methods you choose, it is essential to practice meditation on a daily basis. The more you practice the more effective meditation will be for you when you need it.
Visualization during meditation can also be very helpful. Imagining turning off the receptors that are reporting pain in that place in your body or instructing your brain not to respond to pain messages from certain nerves could also be helpful. To use visualization effectively it is essential to relax deeply in meditation with no intentions at all and to feel that sense of peace that is always available to us. Then use your imagination and visualization skills to affect your physical body. I have taught these techniques to thousands of clients over the years for many different illnesses. In many cases it can also be very helpful to have an experienced therapist guide you in visualization techniques or to create visualizations specifically for you. They can be very effective when practiced properly and on a consistent basis. Practice is the key to success.
One thing to keep in mind. If you are experiencing pain it is trying to tell you something. It is important not to ignore pain. If the pain is debilitating or long term then it is important to visit your doctor or hospital.
Meditation is a way to help alleviate and to manage the pain. It is not a replacement for proper medical care.
I hope this is helpful for you. Contact me directly if you need support in dealing with pain.
© 2018 Jon Shore
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