By Sean Fargo
Sean Fargo is the Chief Zen Officer for a medical company (WellBrain) that is promoting mindfulness as a treatment for chronic pain.
A new pain medication is causing a paradigm shift in the medical world.
It’s called ‘mindfulness’. No, it’s not another pill with undesired side effects. It’s simply the mental habit of purposely paying attention in the present moment without judgment.
It may sound hokey or simplistic, but many recent scientific studies show that mindfulness training for 20 minutes, 3 days a week is the secret sauce to expediting physical well-being.
Think of it as a gym for the mind and medication for the pain.
Due to the proven effects of neuroplasticity, the physical process of mental metamorphosis due to repeated behavior, the more a patient practices, the stronger their mind becomes and the less pain they actually perceive.
If a patient tends to either disengage from or feel overwhelmed by their painful sensations, then specific mindfulness exercises are automatically tailored to transform each of these two unhealthy ways of coping into a liberating and empowering experience of life.
To get personalized mindfulness treatments, patients simply walk into a participating doctor’s office, answer a few questions, and receive a customized mindfulness regiment, just for them.
How long does it take? As little as 2 weeks.
Sample mindfulness exercises include:
- mindfulness of breathing
- mindfulness of thoughts
- body scans
- mindful walking
- loving kindness for self and others
- mindful walking
Skeptical? Try this brief exercise on for size:
- Choose a quiet and comfortable place where you can lie down.
- After you are comfortable, turn your awareness to your body. Feel the parts of your body that are in contact with the surface on which you’re laying. Also notice the position your body is in. Mentally examine your body for any areas where there may be tension—the shoulders, the jaw, the stomach. See if you can consciously release or soften those areas of the body so that you can be totally relaxed.
- Try to to let go of the past and the future, let go of thoughts, and to be fully engaged in the present moment. Here you focus your awareness only on your body and let everything else drop away. You make the decision that whatever you do encounter while examining your body will be met with a sense of ‘friendliness’. Basically, what that means is that you allow whatever you encounter to be as it is. You aim to meet it with equanimity and not to judge or label certain parts of the body or treat painful body parts as an enemy.
- With your mind, try scanning each part of your body with your awareness, one small part at a time. You may start with one foot and give it all your attention. Feel into the whole foot. Notice any sensation of temperature. Be aware of any fabrics that may be in touch with the skin or the point where the air meets the skin. Any sensations are welcome. Does it feel heavy or tired?
Don’t start engaging in thinking about it though. Simply aim to be aware of the sensations here. Continue the scan, moving your attention progressively up one leg and then the other, then to the torso, back arms, head and neck, focusing on part by part, one at a time.
- Become aware of the entire body as a connected whole. Bring awareness to your entire physical body and maintain that awareness for a few minutes. Feel the body from within. Again, aim to stay fully present. There is no need to think about the body. Simply feel into it.