03 Nov Pain Management
The nature of any chronic condition is its persistence and the patience required to manage the symptoms every day.
As an acupuncturist, I am adept at providing symptomatic relief for physical pain. But as I interact with those afflicted with chronic illnesses, I notice that the psycho-emotional toll is just as devastating if not more. The nature of any chronic condition is its persistence and the patience required to manage the symptoms on a daily basis. This is energetically draining both physically and mentally. Over time, a low grade depression often sets in, creating an overwhelming sense of despair. We begin asking ourselves: “What is wrong with me?” “Am I fundamentally flawed or defective?” In turn, this despondency becomes more debilitating and damaging than the physical ailment itself. In an effort to find relief from self-hatred and self-blame, how do we uproot this core belief in order to heal the deeper wound? Let’s examine two contrasting approaches: Mindfulness Meditation which is generally regarded as a contemplative practice and Kwan Yin Mantra Recitation which is more of a devotional path. Neither is better, the key is finding the right fit.
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn opened the UMass Stress Reduction Clinic in 1979 by pioneering an eight-week Mindfulness-based stress-reduction course, targeting patients suffering from chronic pain. By focusing on the breath, the idea is to cultivate attention to the body and the mind as it is moment to moment, and so helps with pain, both physical and emotional. By zeroing in on the fleeting nature of bodily sensations as well as emotions with the laser focus of the mind, the practitioner cultivates the insight to see the impermanence of all conditioned phenomena. This realization is very powerful as it dismantles the illusion that ” I am the pain “. Metaphysically, by engaging in the investigative process of examining the mind, what the practitioner finds is that what is commonly perceived as ” conventional reality ” lacks the solidity it appears to hold. In fact, the whole mental construct of a separate entity known as the Self, begins to break down. Practically, in the context of chronic pain management, the application of Mindfulness Meditation provides the necessary spaciousness to create some separation between the feeler and what is being felt. In essence, you become teflon-tough, you feel it but it doesn’t stick!
Kwan Yin Bodhisattva is the goddess of compassion. In Chinese, the literal meaning of Kwan Yin is one who hears the sorrows of the world. As the personification of the divine healer, the Bodhisattva’s image shows a thousand hands and a thousand eyes. The Lady Buddha, as Kwan Yin Bodhisattva has been known to be called, listens to the sounds of living beings and rescues them from suffering. This is especially true for those sick and seeking comfort. As the ultimate protector, Kwan Yin offers herself to take on the suffering and burdens of those in need. Her message is simple: You don’t have to bear the cross, I will carry you! For someone who is in physical pain and emotional distress, this is profoundly liberating and soothing. By chanting Kwan Yin’s name in the mantra recitation, each living being is invoking her blessings in order to cultivate the goodness of the heart. Traditionally in China, the merits of this virtue is believed to be unsurpassed. A verse from the Lotus Sutra says:
In thought after thought we have no doubt
Kwan Yin is pure and sagely.
In times of suffering, agony, danger, and death,
She is our Refuge and Protector.
The daily grind of coping with chronic pain is traumatic. The wear and tear leaves an indelible mark on the human psyche which becomes calloused and scarred. Rather than resisting and struggling against the pain, freedom lies in unconditional acceptance of ourselves. When we begin to accept ourselves then we begin to change. And as we change, the way we relate to our experiences follow suit. Healing is not just happenstance, it is a concerted effort to cultivate the way allowing us to love ourselves into wholeness.