by Dr. Jackie Gardner-Nix
Mindfulness is defined as the intention to pay attention to the present moment without judgment. During the experience of present moment awareness, and in the absence of ruminating on thoughts of future or past events and the emotions associated, we tend to feel calmer and have a clearer mind, though not always, for example, if we are going through a stressful time. Rumination is defined as a constant turning over of thoughts in the mind.
During formal mindfulness meditation practice, the mind is kept on one focus, which, for most meditators in our courses, is the breath, as an anchor to remain in present moment awareness. The mind inevitably starts to wander, which is what all minds do, and when the meditator notices, he/she gently, and without judgment or hurry, returns it back to the breath. This is part of meditation, not to be seen as a departure from meditating whenever the mind wanders.
With daily formal practice—even 10 to 20 minutes a day, it becomes natural to go to the breath when challenging situations arise. In doing so, a clearer, present moment mindset is more available to manage such stressful events, and catastrophic thoughts and associated emotional “wind up” are reduced or even averted. As physical pain is usually increased when stressed or after being stressed (immune system reduces its protection under stressful conditions and physical conditions exacerbate), mindfulness practitioners remain in better pain control than before acquiring this practice. This is just one aspect of why mindfulness practice improves pain management, and there are many other aspects of the practice that also impact pain.
If you take a moment to think of other ways your practice has improved you pain management and email them into us, we will publish the list in a future Newsletter.