The Problem:

Chronic pain is a part of many people’s lives. We have a lasting injury. We have a chronic condition that causes us discomfort. This could be something as simple as allergies to something as complex as ALS.

For myself, I was recently diagnosed with Scoliosis. It isn’t ‘painful’, but the rotation of my ribs causes me near constant discomfort. In the beginning, I figured this wasn’t a big deal. But much like a little pebble in your shoe, after awhile, even something small wears on you. 

The bottom line is this: when our body doesn’t work right, we suffer mentally and physically. 

The Tool:

How can we support ourselves in managing chronic pain? While there are many options, one surprising tool has offered the most relief to my mental challenges with pain.

Allowing is the Buddhist technique of letting what is unpleasant be, without adding our judgment, struggle or dislike to the experience. 

The idea of allowing is removing our emotional content. Often we have pain or discomfort. This is the reality. We then add anger, judgment, fear, frustration, and a myriad of other feelings on top. This is what we react to. Pain is just a sensation. We have simple tools to manage this – movement, dietary choices, professionals like message therapists, medications. The mental layer- that is much more opaque. 

Allowing is simply stripping back that layer of emotion. Allow the pain. Allow the discomfort. Understand that by adding your emotion, you are making the situation worse. 

The Application:

(Check out the podcast for a guided audio version)

  1. Notice you are experiencing mental states about your pain or condition. Normally you can notice this by tracing your emotional response. 
  2. Take a seat somewhere quiet and close your eyes. Go inside and find the location of the pain or discomfort. Notice its qualities- color, size, movement, shape, speed, feeling. Describe these features to yourself.
  3. As thoughts arise ABOUT the situation, notice their energy versus the energy of the physical pain. The thoughts likely have much more ‘charge’ to them. As they arise, simply state ‘allow’ or ‘this is here’. As more thoughts arise, again just state, ‘allow’. 

This tool is a simple way to remove the mental anguish of chronic pain. It not only honors that you are in pain, it also respects and gives space to your experience. 

Pain is a reality for many of us. By allowing our pain to be present, without hating it or being angry at our situation, we can focus on taking care of our bodies. 

Photo by Sam Burriss on Unsplash