The Challenge Of Chronic Pain, Chronic Symptoms, Cancer
Acute or chronic pain is an incredible challenge. How do we not become overwhelmed when the situation seems intractable? Perhaps one of the most effective things we can do is to open our heart to what is present in the particular moment. What I am suggesting is mindfulness, as well as soothing of the nervous system with somatic gestures when there is an overlay of aversive feelings in response to the pain. The reaction to the pain is another level of distress. Somatic gestures/protocols from Somatically Accessed Wisdom work with the energy systems of the body by placing a hand over an acupressure point, chakra or brain area to increase blood flow to the area and decrease some of the dread and fear. When compassion is furthered, we can be more present and connected.
|-Where focus goes dendrites grow: it interrupts the pattern of hyper-reactivity of the sympathetic nervous system by providing soothing sensation.
-James Dillard talks about how direct pressure travels up to 7x faster than sharp or burning pain, thus SAW by the nature of the sensation is also fast. The phrase BeSAW: be somatically accessed wisdom works.
-By addressing the gates of pain, by addressing over-firing loop, by addressing the kindling process, by addressing the alarm state and PTSD adrenalin, SAW generates new neuropathways that aren’t part of the conditioned response.
-Daniel Siegel, Pat Ogden, others are talking about the 6th sense being interoception which is about perceiving internal information like a “gut” sense of a situation, SAW increases this skill of attuning to internal/intuitive body experience, in fact the entire protocol is about 10 minutes of quiet, reflective time with the body, listening in an open-hearted way to what is there.
|-SAW directly interacts, responds to the anxiety and tension that accompany chronic pain by working with acupressure points that ease distress.
-Isn’t it all about cultivating positive brain states that initially compete with and perhaps overcome the despair and depression? SAW’s response to the “pain body” to use Eckhart Tolle’s term is to encourage confidence in our ability to have an open heart in the midst, to return to the heart as a means to find the wisdom inherent in the situation.
|-Maggie Phillips talks about getting neurons firing in a whole new way, this is what a felt experience of empowerment can do, softening the pressure, the ache of the body, the heart-ache of chronic pain by “holding” two places on the body for 2 minutes and then holding another two places, and feeling better, a felt shift after 10 minutes, the body registers the change.
-Chronic pain is often described as a sensate impairment, that place of unregulated somatic experience, let us go to the body to heal the body, let us increase the alpha waves, the well being of the body, let the experience be one of returning to ease.
-Mindfulness of the presence of the body offers new possibilities of relating while in the midst.
-BeSAW: be somatically accessed wisdom.
|Here are five talismans, five guides to loving your body in the midst:
1) Know: "I am okay. I am in a painful process and I am okay."
2) Allow openness: "I am in direct contact with my body experience. I am congruent with what is going on with my body. I am open."
3) Have awareness that the sensations you are experiencing are a passing phenomenon, whatever is going on, it will be different in the next moment. What is the next moment like? The body in some way doesn't understand time, so you need to make mental note that the experience at hand is truly one of flux.
4) Focus on the heart with the feeling of being connected to everyone else who is experiencing something similar to what you are going through. Dedicate good will to all beings in this condition.
5) Give instruction and gratitude to the body: "Thank you body for healing all. I live in bright possiblilty."
I believe relationship with body symptoms is just that a relationship. There is the ongoing nature of acceptance and awareness. By this I mean mindfulness of body experience. It is about noticing and feeling the sensations of what is going on. This is the place of being connected to what is, allowing and feeling.
For some people where there has been a history of trauma, this can be a particularly hard earned experience. In trauma we lessen the impact by going away from the intensity of the experience. This is a vital survival mechanism. Sometimes if our trauma has not been worked through, we continue checking out from the body experience. In any case, being in contact with the immediacy of the body experience is not necessarily something we hear much of as a cultural value.
It is of highest value in healing, becoming whole. Being embodied is being in the body with a direct experience of the moment.
From this foundation of attention, we can begin to investigate the mind body interplay. The separateness of having body be only about body does not do justice to how we are an amazing network of neural responses that are of course affected by our life circumstances.
If we are feeling that to look at interconnection of mind and body is to feel blamed, then that might be a dynamic that would benefit with closer investigation. Any awareness held without judgement is empowering.
Paradoxically with the acceptance of body experience in place, let us then be devoted to changing acute and chronic symptoms. Great, how do we do that? The way might be about staying engaged with the dialogue between body and feelings and spirit. Be curious, connect internal and external circumstance, consult friends.
I am not suggesting this process eliminates symptoms. I am proposing that it is a direct line to our body wisdom and from there we have access to a deeper knowing and a deeper feeling. This is our ally. Let us give full due to our complexity and richness as wondrous beings.
What the body seems to need is an acknowledgement of a particular feeling and a movement with the feeling. Then the body is congruent with what is present. Unfelt and misplaced emotions can cause disruption like road rage which becomes an acting out of a feeling without dealing with the context from which it originated.
If we are here now with what is going on with whatever the feeling, a confidence develops that trusts the moment. Feelings don’t harm us. Acting as if they aren’t there does. We change by going into the body experience and opening, while keeping alert to any associations we might have. The model is to hold mindfulness and engagement in the midst of the symptoms, attend to unfinished business and cast a line to the future.
The future of course can be anything. It can be refuge in a good heart. It can be that straightforward.