I read Eckhart Tolle’s classic book called “The Power of Now” many years ago. Although I considered it sound advice at the time, I guess I’d always thought of “now” on a larger scale. For example, I could tell myself today not to worry about next week until next week got here. Or I might talk myself out of currently being upset about something that happened the day before. However, I recently reread the book and discovered how beneficial this thought process can be when applied as it was meant to be applied — to each second. This is especially true for pain control. The book was teaching this message all along. I just wasn’t ready to learn it when I read it the first time.
An essential component of living in the now is to slow down your mind and move your focus inward. One technique I use to accomplish this is to consider all five senses. I ask myself what I’m hearing, smelling, seeing, and tasting in the current moment — in addition to what I’m feeling. This gives me a better sense of what’s happening, right now. Then, I picture my body surrounded by a bright golden light. As I inhale, I picture the light coming into my body. With each breath, I inhale a bit more, until I feel fully engulfed. At that point, I feel like I’m truly “in my body.” I try to focus totally on feeling, and not have any visual images.
The surprising thing is if I do this when I’m in pain, I sometimes realize that I’m not in pain at that very moment. My pain is rarely constant, rather, it ebbs and flows. If I do feel pain, I go back to the other four senses. Sometimes, even in the brief time span of one deep breath, the pain recedes. The present moment will then be without pain.
If at that time you can convince yourself that nothing else exists apart from the present moment (another lesson learned from “The Power of Now”), then you can become pain-free. Focusing exactly on what that moment feels like is key. You can recreate that moment and the absence of pain. As a bonus, continuing to focus on as many pain-free moments as possible lessens the pain, and sometimes conquers it completely.
For an award-winning worrier like me, my thoughts are often focused on a time in the future when I might be in pain. These thoughts can be: “What if I continue to feel this bad and need to cancel [fill in the blank]?” or, “Should I call to cancel now, or should I wait until morning to see how I feel?” or, “How will I do the [fill in the blank] that I’ve committed to do?” Sadly, when I’m not focused on the future, I’m often focused on the past, retracing my steps for the last few days or hours, trying to figure out what I did to trigger the pain.
The remainder of my awareness usually focuses on fighting the pain. Should I apply heat? Should I apply cold? Should I attach my TENS unit? Should I do stretches? And, lastly, should I take medication to fight the pain? And, if so, what should I take? Should I take it now while it’s easier to conquer, or should I wait to see if the pain goes away by itself?
Some of these thoughts are absolutely necessary, and that’s OK. Life must go on, pain or no pain. However, I find the experience of pain to be less painful when I force myself to be present, to live in the moment. Even if it cures nothing, the power of now gives me a sense of control; something that’s often lacking when living with an illness without a cure.
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