meditation and pain
Beth’s Harvard coach requested that she meet a little girl with a physical disability from a local club team. They swam together twice. Beth dabbled a little in coaching and talked to the girl and her mom over dinner. A Paralympic swimmer in Michigan also asked Beth to mentor a teenage girl with a new spinal cord injury. Ongoing friendships included her first mentee from Seattle who visited Harvard for a college visit almost four years after they began to exchange emails. They met face-to-face for the first time and caught up over lunch in Harvard Square.
Beth’s web of connections kept growing.
My new Massachusetts doctor sent me to chronic pain classes at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine. The institute was founded by Dr. Herbert Benson, the cardiologist who wrote The Relaxation Response.
I drove east on Rt. 9 to Roxbury, a suburb of Boston. A nurse led the classes, teaching us about the science of meditation and how those who meditated regularly experienced significant health benefits. My diverse classmates experienced a wide range of medical problems. The nurse encouraged us to accept pain, the same concept that angered me when I first heard it in Ohio. Since then, I had found no cure for my headache.
I understood that resisting pain did nothing good.
Dr. Benson visited my class and spoke about pain as a benign thing, to separate it from our identities. To enable us to drain its power. To prevent pain from diminishing our experience of life. To make it an inescapable reality more than an obstacle. To make peace with multiple causes of pain, some clear and some not. I tried. I completed homework and daily meditation practice.
At our last class, we shared unanimous results. All of us improved, including me, though our actual pain levels stayed the same. What? Across the board, our minute by minute and hour by hour responses to pain improved, enabling us to cope better day to day. The class also helped me gain perspective as I met others with debilitating pain.
It could always be worse.
2/28/2019 11:12:49 am
It's very admirable of Beth to take on mentoring any disabled person, born or made, because you never know where they are in their level of acceptance. You might have a great apprentice, or you might be fighting an uphill battle.
2/28/2019 06:38:53 pm
Thanks, Jason! Yes, I agree. I'm a peer mentor, too, but for parents of kids with spinal injuries. Everyone has a story, and everyone is different!
3/6/2019 07:56:13 pm
Yes, they are.
2/28/2019 11:26:14 am
It never ceases to amaze me how powerful our thoughts and brains can be in overcoming anything: a disability, a lost opportunity, pain. Thanks for the much needed reminder. And I hope you continue to have progress in managing those headaches!
2/28/2019 06:40:59 pm
Thanks, Joan! Yes, our perspective is powerful. It took me a long time to learn that! ;-)
2/28/2019 12:53:49 pm
How cool you got to meet Dr. Herbert Benson! I love him and his work. The Relaxation Response if one of the first books I read on the mind/body connection.
2/28/2019 06:51:06 pm
Thanks, Mary! Yes, it was a great class. It was amazing that everyone improved with meditation. And we love you, too! <3
3/2/2019 10:59:28 am
Hi Cindy! I know I haven't responded in a while to your blogs, but I'm still here and reading each one. And I still love them. This one regarding meditation and it's benefits falls in line with all I've learned as the result of working at Irene's Myomassology Institute - students learning therapeutic massage. It's all about healing of the mind, body and soul. So, so much more than a typical massage. I'll just say again, too, that I can't wait to read your book! Love you and take care!
3/2/2019 08:13:42 pm
So nice to hear from you, Jill! Your work at Irene's Institute sounds meaningful and rewarding. I agree that there is another whole world of healing and health that traditional doctors miss! I hope we can meet and reconnect sometime. Maybe let me know the next time you're in Ohio? ❤
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