In Part 1 of this post, we looked into some of the tough parts of living with chronic pain – and some ways you can help yourself through it all.
We ended up talking about pacing as being a way of still being able to do the things that are important to you, without having to hurt yourself to do them.
Pacing is one of the core ideas of a pain management system (ADAPT) set up by the University of Sydney Pain Management and Research Centre.
Pacing can help overcome a couple of cycles that many people with chronic pain get locked in:
Pain > leads to rest and frustration > and when the pain eases again > you’re tempted to do way too much all of a sudden (because you finally can) > which takes you back to pain again.
How often have you heard someone say, “It’s just the way I am”?
Or, “It’s just who I am.”
Maybe defending themselves somehow.
Or limiting their options in some way.
Or undermining a sense of self-esteem.
And how often have you been the one saying it?
(Or maybe even just thinking it).
It can certainly seem that way sometimes – that we just ‘are who we are’ and there’s no getting around it. That we’re immutable, static, solid. (Stuck?)
Yet there’s another way of looking at all of this. Of looking at us.
For our brains tell a different story about who we are. They remind us that we, quite literally, can change at any time. That our behaviour – towards the world and towards ourselves – actually shapes us, from moment to moment, right down to a synaptic level.
And they hint at another saying:
“If you always do
what you’ve always done,
you’ll always get
what you’ve always got.”*
So what are you doing with your brain?
And how might you use it more mindfully to sculpt your self?
I was hanging out the washing in the backyard yesterday, mildly annoyed with having to do this chore, when I happened to glance over my shoulder.
This butterfly filled my vision…
And suddenly the mundane became exquisite.
Have you had one of those moments lately? Where something small sort of awakened you and seemed to elevate whatever you were doing, bringing it richness and depth.
It’s this ‘small stuff’, and the paying of attention to it, that mindfulness embraces. The everyday, yet miraculous, stuff that we see, hear, sense, feel, are.
So instead of glossing over something that you might already have encountered before (like your trip to work, or hearing the sound of rain, or hanging out the laundry), mindfulness asks you to remember that that’s actually impossible.
That ‘you can’t step into the same river twice.’*
That you’ve never lived this particular moment before.
That it’s different from all the others you’ll ever experience.
And your whole life is made up of these moments; these little universes unto themselves…
Yet how often are we really in them?
Where are you right now?
Not metaphorically, as in ‘where is your life right now?’ Or ‘where is your head right now?’ Or even ‘where are your thoughts?’
Take a look around you. Where do you find yourself in this very second?
(Where is your life unfolding this very second?)
And then zoom in even closer, from the external to the internal. To the very body you occupy inside this moment.
How does it feel to be here? To be you in this moment.
Welcome to mindfulness…