Monday, September 11, 2017

Meditation for Mesothelioma Pain Management

Even with a mesothelioma diagnosis, it’s possible to use techniques like meditation to assist with managing pain associated with this or other forms of Cancer.

People who live with chronic pain condition themselves to live not just with the pain itself, but also with the expectation of pain. Expectations seldom serve us well. Have you ever gone to a movie and twenty minutes into it, thought, “I bet I know exactly how this movies turns out?” When we have a prediction of the outcome of the movie, it colors our whole experience watching it. I think most of us can agree that watching a movie is more enjoyable if we simply release our expectations and go along for the ride.

Meditation for Mesothelioma Pain Management
I encourage you to think of pain symptoms in the same way. The anticipation of pain often leads to anxiety, and anxiety is almost always accompanied by physiologic effects: the nervous system heightens, breathing quickens, our muscles tense up. This is associated with the “fight-or-flight” response we so often hear about. But here’s the catch: this anticipation of pain can actually lead to more pain. Think of a time in your life with you were experiencing acute stress, such as rushing to meet a deadline at work. Stress leads to tension in the neck and shoulders, which leads to a headache, which means—you guessed it—more pain.

Seasoned meditation practitioners know that the goal of meditation is not to empty the mind of thoughts completely, but instead, to acknowledge thoughts as they pass through the brain, but not to respond to them or assign any power to them. Simply notice the thought, and then let it go.

We can use this idea when dealing with pain symptoms from mesithelioma or cancer. We can remove the power of pain by acknowledging it simply for what it is: a sensation within the body. Not good, not bad, just a sensation, the same as a tickle or an itch from a mosquito bite. Nothing that deserves any more or less attention than that.

The next time you feel pain approaching, try this simple exercise. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. It can be any position that feels good to you—it doesn’t necessarily have to look like what you think a meditative posture “should” look like. Close your eyes, and from the inside, examine every part of your body, from your toes to the top of your head. Acknowledge every sensation that you feel in each part of the body, and then move on. For example, you might notice, “My feet feel tingly,” or “My hips feel tight.” Don’t assign any quality of “good” or “bad” to the sensations that you notice; just acknowledge them, and then move on to the next part of the body.

The key is to stay as relaxed as possible. If you feel a wave of pain coming on, don’t try to resist it or fight against it. Just acknowledge it, don’t give it any additional power, and move on.

In the coming weeks, we will be examining more specific techniques of meditation for pain management specific to people with a diagnosis or mesothelioma or another form of cancer. The first step is to release your expectations, and go along for the ride.

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