My wife has criticized me for years about having a "one-track-mind". She says, "You get so engrossed when you're watching television that the house could fall down around you and you would not notice." She says this most often when she has called me to dinner and I have not responded. Well, It's not true! I would notice especially if it was raining or cold outside. Joking aside, there is truth to what she says. I can get so focused, deeply relaxed and engrossed in a television program that I loose awareness of what is going on around me.
What has this to do with controlling pain? I have observed that when I am 'awakened' from this state of mind that I was not conscious of pain during that period! I am no stranger to pain. I have had five surgeries, all related to ulcerative colitis. These left me with chronic pain from scar tissue in very bad places. I have a morphine pump installed that delivers morphine around the clock into my spinal cord. Further, I fell off a roof and broke my back. I have two titanium rods holding me together and problems with back muscle fatigue and cramping. The drugs do little to help after eight years of this. I have developed a tolerance for them. Too much morphine or pain pills leave me drowsy all the time. They leave me without a life! I have my doctor keep the morphine to a bare minimum. That means I must live with pain.
I have been exposed to meditation through the years. I noticed that when I meditate well it's just like the television experience. I am free of pain during that period ..
"The Relaxation Response"
These observations led me to do some experimentation. Meditation was difficult for me. Various teachers told me to, "Relax and think of nothing." Or, "When thoughts enter my mind just let them pass on out again." I had trouble staying focused. Some teachers asked me to sit in the Lotus position. I'm not as limber as I once was and my back trouble made this quite impossible. My meditation efforts fell by the wayside. I read Dr. Herbert Benson's book, "The Relaxation Response", Avon Books. Dr. Benson has done extensive study of meditation with Buddhist Monks. He has written several follow-up books on this topic. He observed that pain signals were re-routed during meditation. They would fire in new pathways activating different synapses. He documented this with MRI studies. These new pathways blocked pain messages in the brain or greatly reduce them along with a significant list of other ailments including stress! Further, this phenomenon lasted even when the Monks were no longer meditating. But how was I to meditate. I had such a bad experience with it. How could I achieve the results the Monks had? It appeared out of reach for me.
It occurred to me one day that since television programs could draw me into this deep, meditation like, state of mind, what if I had some beautiful scenery to focus on? But I knew I'd need to go very deeply into this state to get any real value from it. Beautiful scenery would not be enough. So I asked my composer friend to record some special music, appropriate to the scenery. This was dubbed in conjunction with the natural sounds from that place? In addition, I added my wife's Aromatherapy and included the fragrance that goes with this place! I videotaped six very different scenes from across the country when we were on our vacation travels. I filmed a lighthouse in Maine, an aquarium in Denver, a stone fireplace at a cabin in the California mountains, a waterfall near Yosemite, a tranquil Japanese lake, and a white wicker chair in our own garden. I made six scenes because I knew I would get bored with just one. I wanted to stay with this and I knew I'd need variety if I were to remain interested. I found very deep relaxation by activating as many of my senses as possible! I found the "Relaxation Response" Dr Benson wrote about! It worked for me! I put all this into a DVD and packaged it with the other items. I keep away lots of these packages to my friends at the hospital pain support group I attended and elsewhere. The results have been fantastic! People are finding lasting relief from their pain when everything else they've tried has failed. The doctors I have shown it to are very enthusiastic, too. Who says you must close your eyes to meditate?
Caution: Pain can be a warning of a serious medical condition. Check with your doctor before trying any treatment plan on your own or following any suggestions found in this article. Do not stop or change any prescribed treatment or medication (s) without first consulting with your doctor or medical care-giver.