Mindfulness, unpleasantness and pain

As we practice mindfulness or present moment awareness, we can expect to experience certain difficulties.

For example, with growing awareness in each moment, in each situation of our lives, we begin to be aware of the unpleasant and painful as well as the pleasant. We may become more aware of even “neutral” experiences as well, seeing in these some unpleasant or pleasant aspect previously unnoticed.

This growing awareness of the unpleasant can be upsetting to the novice practitioner. He or she can mistakenly believe they are not “doing it right” or are “not cut out to meditate!” At this stage it is vital that the practitioner realizes the growing awareness of all aspects of life is actually progress.

But if they are in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program they might ask, “How does growing awareness of pain and the unpleasant help reduce my stress?”

The answer is that to have a chance to reduce our stress and to heal ourselves from the toll stress takes in our lives, we must find a way to see clearly all that is here and to remain aware and present in order to give ourselves the best chance to make the most skillful response to whatever situation life offers us.

So if, through the practice of present moment awareness, we grow in awareness and begin to experience the unpleasant (as well as the pleasant) more deeply, more intensely, this is actually waking up to the reality of our lives. Yet it can be difficult to remain present, to “keep our seat,” to continue meditating and continue our practice of present moment awareness….

As we gain some increasing awareness of our own pain, it is important to notice our reaction. Too often people meet pain in themselves with criticism, meanness, or a sense of failure. They fall into patterns of stressful and destructive self-blame which just adds to the misery they already feel. By practicing mindfulness, we can be aware of our own pain whatever its nature (physical, emotional, etc.).

We can also recognize our patterns and habits of judging and blaming ourselves for our own pain. Recognizing these patterns, we can respond with kindness and compassion instead of reacting with blame and meanness. Our challenge thus becomes: Can we meet and hold our own pain with the same compassion and kindness as we would meet and hold the pain of a loved one?

source: duke health (written by By Jeffrey Brantley)

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