I forget exactly where I learned this little technique, but it really works.
Let’s take tonight as an example. Tonight, I’m having some pain in the back of my right hand, in the region that I have come to think of as the “carpal tunnel” spot, though it’s entirely possible that I don’t really know what I’m talking about. Anyway, I hurt my hand today. I felt it happen. This is the hand that I use for many little repetitive motions — writing, typing, mousing, playing piano, playing guitar — and then, I had to go and lift something heavy and cumbersome, gripping and hefting it with just that one hand. Lift with your legs, not your back; that’s pretty basic, but here’s another tip: lift with your arms, not with one hand.
Where was I? Oh, right: ow. That’s where I was. Experiencing a tight and present ache in my hand — on a scale of one to five, probably only about a 2.8, but still pretty gosh-darned distracting. It hurts. What can I do?
Well, I can take some pain-relieving medication, and I may end up doing that. Here, though, is the little trick that I use to relieve pain when I can’t (or don’t want to) use meds.
I stop resisting the pain.
Instead of pretending it isn’t there, I focus on it. Instead of resisting, I start noticing. Instead of that mind-over-matter “There is no pain” stuff, I begin to take inventory: What is this pain, exactly? What does it feel like?
And you know what happens? The pain diminishes. Once I give it my full attention, it loosens its grip. The tension of resistance becomes the relief of relaxation.
Mind you, it isn’t that the pain goes away, exactly. It’s still there. It’s just that the quality of the pain changes. It becomes more friend than foe, somehow — probably, because I have become more friend than foe to it.
Of course, of course, this gets me thinking about all the emotional storms in my life, and how I choose to handle them. I’ve heard a lot of beautiful, comforting, inspiring, and all-around excellent advice (not least from the wonderful Havi Brooks, who is my hero and mentor) on the subject of allowing your feelings simply to be what they are.
I get it. I also get that I’ll probably have to keep re-learning and remembering this, again and again, for the rest of my natural life.
This thing with easing the physical pain, though — it’s so concrete. So tangible.
Such a very good reminder.
Anyway, give it a try, if you like, the next time you have a headache or back pain or some such. And let me know how it goes!