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You Are Not Your Pain

Have you ever heard yourself say: “I can’t stand this pain any longer!” (And meant it)? Perhaps you experience your perspective on your world as colored by discomfort – a constant ache or tightness that is pressing in and making life difficult to enjoy or even to manage. It might even be that you are a victim of a serious accident or illness with pain being your daily experience. If you are suffering, stay with me: I have an offering for you.

I have a friend, a colleague, whom I met years ago in a seminar about pain management at the Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical School. I had entered the wrong workshop room…thank goodness. I saw a woman in a wheelchair at the front of the room, welcoming me with a warm hand gesture. I sat down and began to listen to her. She is an amazing woman who has suffered two serious spinal injuries, causing her to be wheelchair bound for life. She is unable to walk, lives in constant pain and must follow a regime of standing and sitting that is controlled, time-wise, by a Timex watch that beeps at her constantly. It would be easy to imagine this woman as miserable: hopeless and bitter about her life circumstance. She is anything but.

Her name is Vidyamala Burch. She is a stunning example of aliveness: writing, teaching and creating pain management workshops and seminars. She travels the world over with her work and is simply remarkable. She has written a book and I’d like to recommend it to anyone who has had pain, has pain or might experience pain in the future (which covers about all of us). The book is called You Are Not Your Pain.

This book and audio offering, co-authored by Danny Penman (who has also suffered life-threatening injuries), is an 8-week program that guides you through daily meditations to assist you in learning how to alter your mind’s response to pain. In this course, you learn how to work with your pain…how to create a new relationship with what is already “here”. While there is no promise that pain will disappear or even lessen (although sometimes this occurs), there is great hope for learning to manage your pain with compassion and calm.

More than a self-help book, You Are Not Your Pain provides insight into the very nature of the mind and its relationship with the body. In my own life, chronic pain resulting from a serious accident is constantly with me. At times it can be quite intense. Having read this book and experienced the audio guides, my pain has not only lessened but I have learned to embrace the discomfort with acceptance and compassion. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. You can find it on Amazon.com.

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