Tag Archives: #healing

Meditation to Soothe Physical Pain

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We often think of kindness as something we extend to others to soothe their mental or physical suffering, and to help restore their sense of well-being and happiness. But we generally don’t consider the equal power of being kind to ourselves. In fact, we are normally the last person we consider being kind to. Imagine being able to soothe yourself and your own pain. Wouldn’t you then become a kinder person overall?

I have recurring headaches that can last for days due to a neck injury. What I have learned from meditating with my own physical pain is that pain comes in two forms. The first is the actual pain itself, whether from sickness, a chronic condition, or injury. The other part of pain is the mental and emotional distress we experience. Everyone naturally has an aversion to pain. We may fear the pain or its recurrence, try to push it from our minds, or use unhealthy responses such as numbing pain with alcohol.

In mindfulness meditation we attempt to connect with what is now. Usually we use the breath to connect our physical body and mind to the present moment. Noticing what exists right now for us.

This is the first step to healing through meditation. Although the process can take many forms, first we must be present and tuned into how we are.

This process is accompanied with detachment from our own judgement and a sense of curiosity. For me this would mean lying down on my bed or on a mat, making sure I was comfortable and warm, and noticing my breath. Is it shallow? Can I breathe more deeply? Can I lengthen my breaths?

The next step, would be to scan the body for tightness, pain, or whatever is present. It helps me to imagine I’m examining something besides myself, to be somewhat detached. Once the area of pain is noted, we do something very strange.

We don’t try to fix it. We let ourselves feel that pain. Build a mental image of it, let it grow, feel what is going on in your body and mind in all its intensity. This is how we begin to acknowledge our pain and not push it down or fight it. We let ourselves truly feel it, and any associations that pain may have for us. We can even assign it names or describe it.

Once we have allowed ourselves to feel our pain and examined it, we can begin the process of relieving it. And this process is relaxation. There are different techniques, but I generally focus on a completely relaxing, beautiful, and stress-free visualization. You may imagine yourself floating in cool water, with the sun on your face, or whatever makes you feel relaxed. You can imagine a darkened room, with the smell of the sea drifting in on the breeze, revelling in the most comfortable bed and sheets and comforters. A cup of tea. Smells. Sensations.

Make your experience of relaxation as real as possible. Are there trees? What kind? Are they swaying in the wind? Maybe you have trouble imagining everything but can remember a feeling of complete relaxation in your life. Soak yourself in this experience of soothing relaxation.

You can set a timer with music or peaceful sounds, or you can follow a guided meditation. When you are ready, you may begin to feel yourself returning to your body after treating it to a sense of comfort and ease. Or you may fall asleep. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is how you feel when you come back into the present moment and your body. Can you feel a loosening? Perhaps a quiet or calm? What is your pain level now? Has it changed?

What you have done is not magic. You didn’t cure your illness, but you have removed the second element of physical pain, the avoidance and all the stress that comes when we push away negative feelings. We have listened to what our body is trying to tell us, to rest and to relax. We have felt our pain, and then shown ourselves kindness by giving comfort and ease to our body.

I practice this method with my headaches. I used to be so pain adverse that I wanted to pound my head against a wall to make them stop. I still feel that way. But through this meditation technique, I have been able to calm my screaming nerves, and given myself a break from the pain. Maybe enough to have a wonderful nap. Or to refresh myself before dinner. Before bed.

It doesn’t matter when or how or for how long you practice this method. What matters is that you have given your mind and body just a few moments of kindness. If we can make tea or be there for someone else in pain, why shouldn’t we tend to ourselves? By doing so, we can be better able to show up for others and for life.

If you’re interested in trying this type of meditation, you can search Spotify, your music or podcast platform, Google or YouTube for terms like “guided meditation for healing/pain” or “guided relaxation for pain.” All I can say is that this technique helps me, and hope you will try it and that it helps you be a bit kinder to yourself, learn to listen to your body, and soothe yourself for a better quality of life.

Namaste legends!

– JL โœŒ๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ––๐Ÿผ

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Total Recall. Body Scans, Memories, and the Real You

Not that kind of body scan!

1990’s Total Recall, dir Paul Verhoeven is a mind-bending action film by one of the 80s-90s best action directors. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a man in the future who works a boring job. He visits a business called Rekall that implants memories of vacations within your mind. Something seems to go wrong in the process, and suddenly Schwarzenegger’s character finds himself living the life of a spy, and on an adventure that has him questioning his own life, and wondering what is real.

I have been going through an admittedly less awesome version of Ahnold’s journey. But I’ve finally figured out some important things about myself. Some I have never connected, but still form the basis of this piece here. Of me.

I have always said I felt like my trauma begins around three or four years old. But I never considered asking why. Why not? I dunno. Traumatic memories are often repressed as a defense. But the only way to heal is to find those memories, see them with compassion, and reintegrate them into your story.

And so I was filling out the childhood section of a life story journal, and the question was what where I lived as a child was like. So, I described what I remembered of this old Swedish built house in South Jersey. The dock on the creek, the black goat that stood on the picnic table and scared me. The endless rows of tall green-leafed tomatoes in our garden. Watching my brother walk the long lane to the school bus from what I guess was standing in my crib, and waiting for him to come back. And then a new thing I had to be very careful with, love and take care of, a sister.

And then I paused because 3 or 4 is when we left that house. I was in a car with my sister. My brother wasn’t coming. Neither was Dad. My parents patched it up after a brief separation, but I guess that was enough to shake the security of a child aware enough that her family was breaking up. That she didn’t understand. She knew that her sister looked helpless and dazed. That Mom cried a lot. That Dad was still there sometimes. That brother was gone. That she wanted everyone to be happy.

I feel ya Maxell tape guy!

That realization blew my hair back. I think I stumbled a bit walking from my porch into the house after writing that. Remembering that. And realizing how much a part of myself still existed exactly in that moment of fear, confusion, and guilt. I felt I ought to do something. That it was my fault somehow. Whatever kids think when parents and families split. And for once, I felt compassion for that little girl. Her and her big smile and bigger cheeks. Piggy tails.

I had a really sour stomach and was depressed for about a week recently. It was in my stomach, and just below. It was where I was holding my pain. I kept thinking something terrible would happen. It already had.

My social media, including this blog, was recently scoured as leverage over Stan. The parties even wanted to tell me or have Stan tell me to take down a post. Well, Stan being wise and self-protective, convinced the individuals concerned that was a poor idea. It felt like being trapped by my evil tickle-uncle who called me “wop,” “greaseball,” “dago,” you get the idea. One day I learned the word “NAZI.” But it was a violation.

And then there was Friday. Was that only just last Friday? The day I realized I had less rights than before. That I was not considered equal under the Constitution. Well, if you’re speaking of the original, we don’t get a mention. Enslaved black males get 3/5ths. But, didn’t Jefferson say something about how one shouldn’t wear his childhood clothes as a man, and so we cannot predict what future needs may arise for the law to address? Anyway, all I know is it hurt.

All those realizations sort of gathered in my stomach, until a body scan meditation found them. Then I was able to drag them out, name them, feel them. But bye-bye!

Leave me alone, I’m only writing.

It was powerlessness. Feeling like I didn’t matter. Worse, my voice didn’t matter. And what is an artist without their instruments? One unhappy tummied artist, I can say that!

But accepting that these things are just kind of there is fine. The memories have less power. The feelings become unknotted. *Mumble mumble* year old me can handle and understand far more than 3 or 4 year old me could. And those feeling don’t need to control me. I have my power. I have my own sense of meaning. I am moving closer to a more authentic me by letting all the monsters out, one by one. It won’t all be so simple. But at least I know this is real life. Right? This is it, huh? For realz? I dunno but here’s OK. The real is OK. I am OK.

– JL โœŒ๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ––๐Ÿผ๐ŸŒˆ

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Calmer Than Your Are. Losing my Cool, Walter Sobchak, and PTSD.

Me, always.

“No, Walter. You’re not wrong. You’re just an asshole,” The Dude (Jeff Bridges) admits to his bowling buddy Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) in The Cohen Brothers 1998 Noir film meets the end of The California Dream, The Big Lebowski.

I would accept that description of myself. If I also were not wrong and an asshole so often. I get it often enough, but my reactions need help. I am not to the point of pulling a piece in a bowling alley, yet. But my anger response to a perceived wrong, lack of set rules, or disruption is not too far from Walter’s.

Walter is a damaged Vietnam Vet with PTSD. He is divorced, yet still cares for his ex-wife’s dog, and strictly observes Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest. He is a man trying to cling to structures with meaning. They ground and reassure him. And when his routines, rituals, and structure gets disrupted, he lashes out as only John Goodman can. Big and loud.

In an early scene we see him casually talking with The Dude, the old hippie, and Donny, their ex-surfer friend, when he screams “OVER THE LINE!” to an offending bowler.

Calm but deadly serious.
To pulling a piece.
To threatening a bowler at gun point.

Walter clings to structures for comfort. His reaction is to overwhelm others by enforcing the rules, at gun point if need be. He even needs to control when his friend Donny speaks and corrects The Dude’s use of an Asian slur. By the end of the film though, we realize that under all that camo and tactical gear is a scared 18 year old kid who lived through “a world of hurt.” In fact, it turns out he is not even Jewish. He converted for his ex-wife.

But it is Walter who quickly realizes the solution to the mystery of the rug that really tied the room together. He even mentions how “Un-Dude” his friend is being for getting hung up on the “ins and outs.” And he goes whole hog in his attempts to help The Dude on his quest. These are all traits of PTSD. The clinging, whether to habits or routines, rules or people. The shit-losing when anything pops its head into his life with an unwelcome thought. And yet he stares down arch-rival bowler, The Jesus, while Dude stammers. And he will mess up a couple of Nihilists who killed your car with a quickness.

His tears at the end signal the restoration of order and peace for him. The Dude needs Walter. But Walter also needs The Dude. Because The Dude is the one man chill enough to give Walter the grace to forgive himself. When Walter apologizes, The Dude says, “Fuck it, man.”

What the movie doesn’t explicitly show, however, is the embarrassment of being Walter. We with PTSD are simply not cool like The Dude. We tend to be rigid, hold ourselves rigidly, follow routines, and construct a framework to hang the point of life on. And that protects us from the scary truth that our suffering was and is pointless. As all suffering is.

The end result is sometimes you just lose your cool and freak out in a diner over the accessibility of a severed toe. Then Pride holds him in that diner seat long after he has embarrassed himself and The Dude.

Embarrassment, shame, self-loathing, or disgust generally fill the calm after the fit has passed. And it is something I have had to face down fiercely as I do my last days to week in this hotel room. All of my life is uncertain right now. All structure is gone. I have formed habits already to keep me sane in this room. But after living in fear and uncertainty for seven months now, I have had my share of outbursts.

But I have come to realize that I do not have to sit in the diner where I embarrassed myself. Walter eventually breaks down in tears, admits how wrong he had been, and apologizes to The Dude, and to Donny posthumously. “Fuck it.” Says The Dude, as they head off into the sunset to the lanes.

Feeling the shame, getting unbent, and apologizing are the keys. And if you are lucky enough, you will have friends who tell you to “Fuck it” and go bowling. I mean, in the end, all that is wrong — and there is plenty to go around in this world — sometimes flips our asshole switch. And it feels awful. Nobody wants to lose their cool. Good thing all those cool Dudes need us as much as The Dude needs Walter. Because we will do anything to get back your goddamn rug that really tied the room together! Eh, fuck it. Let’s roll.

– JL โœŒ๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ––๐Ÿผ๐ŸŒป

Check out my Instagram!! And connect with me on Facebook here and here.

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