I’ve talked on a number of occasions about having endometriosis. Every month after dealing with severe PMS I am then relieved of that with severe pain. I have been blessed recently to find that taking an amino acid, D-Phenylalanine helps reduce the pain considerably. It helps make endorphins and allows me to take much less ibuprofen and now I deal with a relatively manageable amount of pain. It’s been one of the most wonderful supplements with clear value that I take.
If anyone wants to try it for pain the way it was prescribed to me was to take 1500 mg for a week. And then 500 mg daily after that on an empty stomach.
In any case, though my pain is manageable today as I thought about what I might write about on my blog I thought I would revisit this physical pain as it has so many parallels with emotional pain. Dealing skillfully with either emotional pain or physical pain is really quite similar. I explore this in an old post on my endometriosis pain while I was dealing with the pain of the loss of my brother.
Synchronistically, I asked my husband to help me think of something to write today and as I was thinking, “I’ll write about pain.” He sent me this article written by a woman who had a epiphany of sorts while in pain:
I am a forty-five-year-old woman who suffered a spinal injury thirty years ago that has resulted in a legacy of on-going physical pain. Of course this has been difficult to live with, but some twenty years ago I had a significant experience that radically changed my perspective on life and plunged me into the wonder of living in ‘the present moment’.
I was in an intensive care ward at the time, with an acute deterioration of my condition. I had been bedridden for several months and unable to sit up, but on this occasion I had undergone a diagnostic procedure that required me to sit up for several hours afterwards. During this long night of intense pain I felt myself sliding towards the edge of madness.
I spent hours with two internal voices locked in combat – one voice convinced I could not stay sane till morning and the other willing me to do so. It was an incredibly intense, brittle, heart-breaking experience.
Then, suddenly, my experience completely changed when I heard a quiet inner voice saying: “You don’t have to get through till morning; you only have to get through the present moment”. It was like a house of cards collapsing, revealing the space that had been present all along, if only I could have recognised it. My experience immediately changed from an agonised, contracted state to one that was soft and rich – despite the physical pain. At that moment of relaxing into the present moment, just as it was, I intuitively knew I had tasted something true.
I am hoping in time I will eliminate the need to pain medication completely. And I believe I will.
I have a friend who is a nurse practitioner in pain management. She works with people who are dealing with long-term chronic pain. Part of the program they offer there teaches mindfulness meditation for control of pain in her clinic. The people who really get it return to full successful lives with little or no medications. She says it’s pretty incredible. They also teach diet and nutrition to minimize pain. The standard American diet isn’t just bad for mental health, it’s bad for pain management too.
Meditation helps all the varieties of human pain possible—physical and emotional and spiritual. As the woman above found all you have to do is deal with the present moment. And as I said in my last post a large part of that is acceptance that that can be found in mindfulness however you choose to call it.
Just so you know, none of these practices need be studied within the confines of Buddhism. I am not a Buddhist thought I’ve read a lot of Buddhism over the years. Mindfulness and meditation is a human birthright and can work in conjunction with any religious belief system or none at all.
A good introduction to mindfulness that is completely secular is Jon Kabat Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are.
For a more Buddhist view on acceptance I really loved Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance.