Those in pain can relieve some suffering with meditation
Pain sufferers sometimes intensify their pain levels by adding layers of mental anguish, say UT Southwestern Medical Center psychologists. But, by learning and using mindfulness – attending to the present without judgment – the physical pain can be separated out from the surrounding mental distress, says Dr. Marty Lumpkin, a clinical psychologist.
“Fighting pain perpetuates and spirals it into the dimension of suffering,” he says. “Mindfulness meets the pain with an attitude of allowing, not protesting.”
Mindfulness is often learned through a form of meditation. Mindfulness meditation combines focusing on some present experience, like taking a breath, with open awareness to whatever else – sights, sounds, feelings, thoughts – arises in the moment.
Mindfulness involves five aspects:
• Intent – choosing to be in the moment;
• Wakeful energy – cultivating relaxed alertness;
• Attention – sustaining focus on some present experience instead of mental wandering;
• Awareness – open perception of all current experiences; and
• Acceptance – the attitude of non-judging or non-resistance to what arises in our experiences.
Dr. Lumpkin says that practicing mindfulness keeps us from contracting around the pain experience.
“It is a profoundly simple discovery,” he says. “We find that it is our pain stories, not pain sensations, that make up most of our suffering.”
Visit www.utsouthwestern.org/mentalhealth to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services for mental health.
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