Transforming Your Relationship with Pain

 Next month I'll be joining with my good friend Dr. Gary Kaplan, Founder and Medical Director of the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine in McLean, VA to offer a series called "Transforming Your Relationship to Pain."  This is a topic of great interest to me as I've been struck with migraines regularly since I was about six.  When I practice meditation on shifting my relationship to pain, I am serious about it!

A few months ago Gary and I taught a six week series called "Medical Meditation" where we explored and measured the effects of establishing a meditation practice over a six-week period.

Here's a quote from Gary's write up:

During this initial training we wanted to see if we could objectively demonstrate an improvement in the participants' health. To do so, we measured their morning and evening cortisol levels (a physiologic measure of stress) and asked everyone in the group to complete a pre- and post-training questionnaire called the "SF-36."

After just 6 weeks of training, the group's evening cortisol levels did decrease, a finding consistent with the improved sleep reported by many members of the group. The participants also experienced an overall improvement in their emotional well-being as measured by the SF-36. In addition, as you can read below, the participants greatly enjoyed the program.

Jonathan and I were pleased that the participants not only perceived that they had received health benefits from the program, but that we were able to objectively demonstrate an improvement. Our findings are consistent with a growing body of scientific literature demonstrating that the regular practice of meditation reduces physical pain, improves sleep and brain function, and strengthens the immune system.

It's somewhat astounding and consistently pleasing to discover again and again how much shifts inside and outside when we engage into these attentional training methods.  We're excited to be diving directly into how we can transform our relationship to pain.  Of course, 'pain' is a synergistic blend physical, emotional and mental states.

The bad news is that 'pain' happens.  The good news is that we can indeed shift our relationship to it.

A few links if you're interested in more:

Meditation: Can It Reduce Your Pain? by Dr. Kaplan

You Can Think Your Way Out of Pain

Meditation Leads to Greater Pain Relief Than Morphine

Meditation Reduces the Emotional Impact of Pain


I'll have more to share as we move through the program.  This course is fully enrolled now, but we hope to be offering it again soon.


In the meantime,if you like, here's a talk I gave on the topic during a weeklong meditation retreat last year.


The Value of Retreat

I'm back now from the IMCW Spring Retreat for about five days and still enjoying the buzz.  60+ participants for the week and over 100 for the weekend. Seven days with no reading, writing, eye contact speaking.  Your 'job' is to relax and pay attention.

I was deeply absorbed this week, leading movement sessions twice a day, doing 1:1 interviews and giving two talks.  It was a deep privilege to serve.

There's a reason this format has been around for a few thousand years.  If you can possibly schedule a retreat, I consider it one of the best investments you can make.  Our next retreat, the IMCW Fall Retreat, is in October.


The Passing of Time

I'm just back from a week in Maine with family.  My mother barely made it through yet another health crisis.  I wasn't sure she'd be alive when I got up there, but one morning she sat up, asked for some water, had a big lunch and is now stabilized, but pretty dramatically set back both cognitively and physically.  She's in hospice care, much to the relief of my father, brother and his family, who have struggled to support her. Everyone loses parents.  When I remember the teaching of Tonglen and remember "Other people feel this too," it has a way of relaxing my heart.

And as the saying goes, "Every front has a back."  Reconnecting with family has been wonderful.  There is a richness available in every moment as we each find our place of internal balance.

On my last visit before hopping a flight back, my mother looked at me and asked what I did for a living.  It was interesting to hear myself briefly introduce myself to her, to tell her I taught meditation and lived in Washington, DC.  She suddenly remembered I had a wife, asked about her, and then was gone.

It's like that, I guess.  We form a narrative, then the narrative fades and there is space again.