I’ve previously written about the most life-changing experience I ever had, the first time I allowed myself to truly feel pain.
During meditation I purposely thought about a painful experience and noticed how my body responded.
Interestingly, the experience that I intended to contemplate gave way to a more intense memory of something that occurred 20 years earlier.
Arising in my chest was a painful ache I thought I had left behind forever.
Yet after so many years laying dormant inside me, the pain was back.
And it was back with a vengeance!
I felt anxiety and tension grip my entire body.
In the past I would have tried to avoid it.
I would have judged it.
I would have associated it with rejection, something I did wrong, or as me not being good enough.
This time I took the Buddhist instruction: I let myself experience the bodily sensations accompanying the memory without judging them.
All I actively did was…..notice.
I was astonished that I could feel the exact same pain, with the exact same intensity–like I was watching the scene unfold for the first time–that I felt one cool October night 20 years earlier.
Something fascinating then happened.
After about a minute of simply observing, the tension dissipated, my body relaxed, and the pain went away.
I never could explain how this phenomena worked.
I knew it was all about not letting pain, which is a real human experience, turn into suffering, which occurs when we don’t know how to deal effectively with pain.
But I may have found a physiological explanation in a book called The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
from the book:
“In a subsequent study Pennebaker asked half of a group of seventy-two students to talk into a tape recorder about the most traumatic experience of their lives; the other half discussed their plans for the rest of the day. As they spoke, researchers monitored their physiological reactions: blood pleasure, heart rate, muscle tension, and hand temperature. This study had similar results:
Those who allowed themselves to feel their emotions showed significant physiological changes, both immediate and long term. During their confessions blood pressure, heart rate, and other autonomic functions increased, but afterward their arousal fell to levels below where they had been at the start of the study. The drop in blood pressure could still be measured six weeks after the experiment ended”.
This physiological explanation matched my experience exactly.
The memory arose, my body reacted, my “fight or flight” response kicked into gear, the pain and axiety arose in my chest and abdomen, and then after a minute of intense discomfort, I relaxed.
And I didn’t just return to the relaxed state that I began the meditation in. I was more relaxed than I had felt in a long time.
It really did feel like a hundred pound weight was lifted off me.
If you want to understand the process better you can check this post out.
I highly recommend learning the process. It can truly change your life.
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