Pain is part of our life yet for many people their bodies and lives can be completely ruled by pain. Body-Mindfulness meditation has been shown to have a significant impact on managing chronic pain.
In recent years Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programmes are increasingly being used in both treating psychiatric problems such as stress, anxiety, depression and panic, as well as treating medical problems such as chronic pain and cancer .
The Pain Four-level model
The brain can be seen as four levels of a metaphoric building according to Arnold Kozak from the department of psychology, University of Vermont. The ground floor represents the physical sensations recognised by the brain as “pain”. Recognising, labelling and categorising “pain” is the second floor. During identification and categorising, the brain asks if the experience is pleasant, non-pleasant or neutral? Unpleasant experience may require an action, such as moving hand from a heat source. Therefore, the third floor is feelings.
The fourth floor is known as the Storytelling Mind. This part of the mind creates a story around the unpleasant experience. E.g identifying the pain as “my pain”, projecting into the history of the pain experience, e.g. this pain has ruined my life”, as well as future and past oriented thoughts such as, will this pain ever end or how long do I have to cope with this pain? Combine with other negative and critical thoughts about the present, e.g. “I ve had enough, I cant cope anymore”.
It is this Storytelling mind that is the target in mindfulness-based intervention to manage pain . Suffering is experienced because of our concepts of pain, not because of the actual experience of pain, which is a collection of physical sensations and energy flow within our bodies. Physical limitations and disabilities are consequences of pain and real, and can be accepted. Acceptance occurs when association between the concepts of suffering can be separated from the experience of unpleasant sensations.
Even unpleasant sensations can be untangled into its fundamental constituents of sensations and energy, and at this level the suffering can not exist as the storytelling mind becomes inactive.
As one makes a full and intimate contact with experience in this moment, acceptance arises.
Ref: Kozak Arnold, Mindfulness in the management of chronic pain: conceptual and clinical considerations. Techniques in Regional Anaesthesia and Pain Management (2008) 12, 115-118