People who suffer chronic pain may be able to find relief through regular meditation practice. Many practitioners agree that, while meditation may not erase pain, it can alleviate pain or guide you through ways to manage it. Like many alternative therapies, meditation requires consistent practice to have measurable results.
Biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn, trained in the Vipassana form of Buddhist meditation, simplified and modified the body scan technique to help people manage pain. Remove your shoes. Lie down on a comfortable surface. Feel which parts of your body touch the surface beneath you and relax them. Inhale and tense the muscles of the face and jaw. Exhale and release the tension. Do the same exercise for any other parts of the body holding tension, typically the shoulders, neck, buttocks, hands or legs. Set a goal to let go of worries and concentrate on the present moment. Be open about what you may encounter in your body during this body scan. Tour your toe to head, visualizing or slightly moving each part. Once you reach your head, imagine the interconnectedness of your body. Sense your skin enveloping your body and celebrate your wholeness.
A common technique in hypnosis, guided imagery can help you relax your whole body and release pain. Begin in any comfortable position with your shoes off. Breath deeply but comfortably from the diaphragm. Close your eyes. Inhale peace and exhale worry. Visualize yourself in a tranquil environment. You might be suspended amidst the clouds, swinging in a hammock or floating in the ocean. Interact with your senses in this environment. Add details to the inner vision until it feels fully realized. Relax there, breathing. To journey back, count backwards from 20, instructing yourself to feel relaxed and present at the number 1.
One of meditation’s classic rituals is also useful for pain management. To tailor this technique, create a mantra or a chant that is meaningful to you and that connotes feeling healthful and free of pain. Sit upright or slightly reclined, in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and intone, imagine or hum your mantra. Repeat the mantra in sync with your breathing. As other thoughts and sensations enter your mind, let them fade by focusing on your mantra. Continue for 15 or 20 minutes, allowing your whole self to be committed to the mantra and its healing power.
Relaxed focusing allows the practitioner to draw attention to particular parts of the body and attempt to heal them. Begin sitting comfortably upright in a chair. Close your eyes. Rest your hands in your lap. Inhale deeply into your abdomen, letting it expand, to a count of three and then exhale, releasing tension throughout your body. Repeat this process three times. Continue this stomach breathing as you let relaxation flow down through your body. Remember to let the energy flow to your extremities and face. Visualize wherever there is tightness, resistance or pain and send breathing energy there, letting tension flow away at the exhale. Center your attention on a specific part of the body. Feel the air around this part. If your attention drifts, bring your focus back to the breathing. Notice any sideways thoughts or distractions and then let them go. Try this technique for 10 minutes twice a day.