“Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” ~ Unknown Author
How often do we pause to notice and be with our pain - whether in the body, heart or mind?
If we can pause, even if for a moment, we may notice a sudden reactivity bias based in fear. The way we perceive "pain" is usually by labeling it as bad or wrong and then we immediately push it away with resistance. If we reflect a bit longer and deeper, we may even notice associations we make with pain through underlying thoughts or stories that begin to hook us or attach us to the pain. The self-dialogue can continue into a never-ending (and deepening) loop that often intensifies the current and subsequent painful experience.
How can we begin relating with pain mindfully? Dr. Christiane Wolf illustrates some helpful tips for mindfully engaging with pain. I have added and modified somewhat:
1. The moment we enter a painful experience, just pause (even if for a second)
2. Allow a softening and kindness toward self (and others)
3. Meet this experience as if for the first time (if pain is chronic or trauma-based, read #5)
4. Allow the experience to be there fully, just as it is - no resistance or avoidance. Just breathe.
5. Inquiring with a gentle curiosity into the physical sensations, emotions and thoughts - if we can sit for a few minutes and notice even when we are feeling a painful emotion, there is typically an accompanying physical sensation in the body - where is it? Feel it and offer kindness there as much as you are able.
6. Without identifying with the pain - As we notice when we sit with our pain, there is so much to experience - changing sensations, thoughts and feelings; they simply and naturally subside with time. Its the identification of I, me, mine and stories that we associate, project, fantasize or imagine that keep us locked in the pain. Simply try and notice and let go with patience and kindness.
7. Mindfully Breathing in and breathing out as much as we are able in the process of pain is extremely helpful in dis-identifying with pain. Much like a camera lens zooms out to capture the wider view of its subject, we too can use the breath as an anchor to zoom out as we witness the pain without the identification of it.
*During this practice - either formal sitting or as thoughts and feelings arise during the day - it will be helpful to notice the difference between a thought and feeling as well as the tone that each carries - either positive, negative or neutral. A thought can think judging, labeling, blaming, believing, criticizing, analyzing, comparing, generalizing, worrying, desiring, expecting, admiring, attaching, predicting, rejecting and so on; even though we are thinking our thoughts, they are often turned or focused outward, toward another or an experience. A feeling can feel excited, joyful, confident, connected, curious, content, happy, grateful, sad, mad, anxious, insulted, self-conscious, frustrated, disconnected and so on. Feelings live within us and although turned inward, often go un-recognized even for years or decades. As we notice the stream of thoughts and feelings and sensations (the physical feelings in the body that accompany thoughts and feelings - heat, tingling, heaviness, tightness, etc.) moment to moment, we also observe they are always changing; we can allow each to come and go as patiently and gently as we are able...and most importantly, to do so with kindness to ourselves in the process 💜.
Author: Nina Bhatty
If you found this article to be helpful or you have questions or comments, feel free to provide feedback in the 'comments' section below or message me privately.
"Suffering is our call to attention, our call to investigate the truth of our beliefs"
What are some of the beliefs we hold about ourselves that get in the way or limit us from feeling open-minded and open-hearted?
We can begin to understand what beliefs are limiting or empowering us as we reflect and experience the way the beliefs live and feel in the mind-heart-body. To inquire a bit more deeply, let's reflect on the following questions:
How do we know if a belief is limiting or empowering us?
By pausing to notice how the mind-heart-body is directly experiencing the belief through underlying thoughts, feelings and sensations. A limiting belief contracts the mind-heart-body as tightness, heaviness, irritation, judgment, shame, anxiety, isolation, fear, anger, jealousy, inferiority, etc. An empowering belief creates a feeling sense of expansion in the mind-heart-body as lightness, spaciousness, open-ness, joy, clarity, connectedness, trust, acceptance, compassion, wisdom, etc.
How do we know if a belief is true?
We have thousands of thoughts throughout the day. Sometimes these underlying thoughts come from beliefs that we hold as absolutely true. Some examples of deeply rooted beliefs that I've heard when working with parents of children with a special need is that the child will never speak, behavior appropriately, go to college or have friends. Other beliefs I've heard from working with children and teenagers are "I am not good enough to hang out with typical kids or "I have no control over my anxiety or anger." These are powerfully limiting beliefs! Are they true?...Are they absolutely true? Let's inquire:
**Take about 5 minutes (for deeper mindfulness practice, sit in a quiet, distraction-free space for about 45 minutes daily) to pause whenever you notice a limiting belief that is standing between you and feeling neutral or good. Experience what comes up for you as you investigate with gentle curiosity about where the beliefs is rooted and if they are true/absolute. In the process, there is no need to judge or criticize yourself or others. Be as compassionate and at ease with yourself as able. If we allow for spaciousness in the mind, we may find that there is a continuous flow of change, a coming and going of all phenomena - thoughts, emotions, sensations, etc. and that nothing is static, fixed or bound or limited. Let's simply sit and be with it all, just in this moment.
Author, Nina Bhatty
Feel free to share your comments about this article or your experience - either below in the comments section or via email in the 'contact' tab in the menu.
An uncomfortable feeling is not an enemy. It’s a gift that says “get honest – inquire.”
~ Bryon Katie
STRESS - It's everywhere and is totally unavoidable.
We need to allow the stress response—flight, fight or freeze—to be “on-call” should there be a need to react to a threat. However, in most day-to-day moments, we can benefit from asking the question, "What is truly standing in the way between me and how i relate to stressors - traffic, running late, technology, politics, unmet deadlines, crammed schedules, relationship struggles, people in general, etc.?"
When we can turn the mental-emotional compass inward, we may begin to notice how we react (unconscious, conditioned habit-patterns), rather than how we respond (conscious choice) to uncontrollable and often uncomfortable experiences. if we can pause for just a moment, we may find a “s p a c e” from which to step back and choose our response to anything and anyone. it will take practice, practice, practice and then some more practice to pause and choose to respond.
Here are 5 mindful tips to relate more efficiently to stress:
1. When the external stress trigger arises, pause and make a u-turn inward and create a space in the mind. In other words, try and be present with whatever is arising.
2. Take 5 *mindful breaths periodically throughout the day
3. Do only 1 thing at a time and do it *mindfully
4. Spend at least 15-30 minutes everyday to completely and *mindfully be with yourself
5. Begin again, without judgments about yourself – as gently able as possible
*Mindful in this context relates to being completely attentive and focused with all phenomena as it arises, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.
Author - Nina Bhatty
If you found this information to be helpful and would like to share your experience with STRESS, simply share in either the 'comments' section below or contact me privately in the 'contact me' tab in the menu bar - I would love to hear your thoughts and feelings related to your experiences with stress and how you integrate mindfulness or would like to know more about mindfulness as it applies to your life experiences.