As a child, I was subjected to numerous surgeries, the most severe was the amputation of one of my feet. Growing up with a lower limb prosthesis was challenging and often painful experience. As a boy, my parents and several of my teachers noticed that I seemed to have a fairly high pain tolerance. My mother knew something was really wrong with me if I ever complained about it.
I don’t think I was born with some kind of abnormal neurology where I actually experience pain less than others but, out of necessity, I developed a strategy for dealing with pain which was sometimes constant and acute. It is possible, through drugs or conditioning, to actually feel less pain. I am not a huge fan of this idea in general as pain is an indicator that something is wrong – you are injured, sick, or about to be injured. I will share one technique with you to actually lessen the sensation of pain. The main thing I want to share with you is method I have used since childhood to feel the pain, but not let it bother you.
It should go without saying that nothing here is meant to replace medical or psychological advice of any kind, nor is meant to treat, diagnose, cure, or do anything to any disease or medical condition. If you try any of this stuff, you promise never to sue me for anything ever.
One of the main problems that people experience when they feel pain is that they complain about it. They complain to others, and they complain internally to themselves. “Oh man this hurts, I can’t believe this.” The issue with this is that we create this vicious cycle of emotion where we get more and more upset – to sustain this – the mind amplifies the pain experience. They also project the mind into the past (memory) and future (imagination) to add energy to their emotions. This can descend into a serious state of self-pity, a very low level form of grief that taints everything we experience. I’ve been there too. I remember having severe hip and limb pain that didn’t subside for about 6 months – even with a high pain tolerance it really put me at the end of my rope.
The way to counter this is to not mentally judge or put labels on the pain. Do not go into a memory or project anything into the future. You have to get into exactly what you are feeling now in this moment. Slow down your breath and just experience the energy of whatever you’re feeling. Don’t label the feeling, don’t judge it as good or bad, become just an observer. Go into it with your mind and try to locate exactly where the sensation originates and where it ends, what shape it is, if it moves or is static. Play with it a little bit.
It’s a bit difficult to describe it more than that, but this is essentially what I taught myself to do as a child. Children have the advantage of being curious about everything. My 3 year old twins ask me about a million questions a day. Detached curiosity can keep you from whipping up your feelings about whatever you’re feeling.
To get a bit more advanced, once you become aware of what you are feeling, without labeling or judging recognize that whatever you are feeling is an energy inside your body. From physics and spirituality we know that everything is energy. Just allow yourself to appreciate the energy, appreciate, accept, and even love that this energy exists again without label or judgment. Then, give yourself some love and approval simply for appreciating the energy. This will bring you into a very peaceful and present state of mind. Do this as often as you wish – even if you are feeling good.
This is a very powerful centering meditation.
Making pain disappear
This is a technique I learned from Hale Dwoskin, author of the Sedona Method (buy it an read it and read it again). From physics we know that all matter consists of a bit of organized energy whizzing around, but is mostly empty space. There is vastly more empty space than “stuff” in every atom and every molecule in existence.
Ask yourself the following two questions slowly and pause a little while your awareness shifts after asking them.
First, can you simply become aware of any pain or discomfort you are feeling in this moment?
Then, can you simply become aware of the space that surrounds and penetrates that area of the body which has no feeling at all?
Now, if there is any remaining discomfort, just repeat the first two questions slowly and get in touch with what you are feeling in the moment.