July 11, 2014
This is a story I don’t tell very often. So I thought long and hard as to why not, before I decided to lay it out here. It’s because I’m concerned that it will be misinterpreted as a suggestion for a cure-all, WHICH IT IS NOT! I’m also concerned that someone may get the idea that there’s something wrong with them if it doesn’t ‘work’ for them. That would be missing the point I’m trying to make, and that would mean I’m not explaining it very well.
Many years ago when I was going through a particularly stressful time in my life I experienced migraines. Not as bad as some but at times debilitating. And as my stress increased so did the frequency and the intensity of the migraines.
One day I decided to put my money where my mouth was. I’d been waxing poetic about the benefits of meditation for years. But when it came to a migraine, I’d skip meditation because I had a belief that I wouldn’t be able to do it. That day I decided to try it anyway.
The most important element of that experience was that I didn’t label the sensations I was experiencing as ‘pain’. I called them sensations. I remembered reading somewhere that relaxing and bringing curiosity into the mix can totally transform an experience from something awful to something else—something not awful—so I figured, why not?
I sat in my chair, closed my eyes, and began a systematic exploration of the sensations behind my eyes with interest and curiosity. I explored what I actually felt, not what I’d been saying for years that I felt. I felt the intensity, the shape, the substance of the sensations, the temperature, the color and the texture. I noticed that the sensations changed second by second. They weren’t this solid, static ‘pain’ that I’d always thought of as ‘my migraines’. The intensity and the location and the substance of the sensations shifted and moved and waxed and waned.
After about ten or fifteen minutes (in all honesty I don’t actually know how long it was) the sensations began to diminish. Normally I’d have the ‘pain’ for at least 24 hours but after another ten minutes or so all that remained for the rest of the day was the dull remnant of the feeling of having had a migraine–I think anyone who’s ever had one will know what I mean by that.
I got up and went about my day. I have never had a migraine since.
Again, I want to be very, very clear. I’m not suggesting that I have the remedy for migraines!!! I think many people have allergies and/or inherited tendencies to get migraines (like my inherited tendency to have a less than stellar skeleton) and that was not the case with me. To the best of my understanding mine were strictly stress induced.
What I do want to emphasize is that in spite of the current research and evidence all around us, we still continue to underestimate the power of our minds. When we improve the attending and focus ‘muscles’ of our mind, and our mind starts working for us rather than against us, we open a door to having a different experience than we’ve been having. That’s pretty important if the experiences we’ve been having haven’t been to our liking!
I continue to use what I learned that day when uncomfortable physical and/or emotional sensations show up. I haven’t eliminated discomfort—I still have chronic lower back ‘pain’, and I still get triggered and experience emotional intensity. At the same time, when uncomfortable sensations show up I do my best to drop my resistance (which is reflected in a tense body and lots of rejecting language in my head), and trust my body to work with me as I work with it.
I suspect that if I was managing myself the old way, i.e. resisting like crazy, my discomfort would be a lot more intense, and would last a lot longer, than it does. Love to hear if you’ve had an experience of having a different outcome when you’ve been able to change your relationship with discomfort.