Mindfulness Based Intervention for Chronic Pain

Mindfulness Based Intervention for Chronic Pain

In 1979 Jon Kabat Zinn recruited chronically ill patients who were not responding well to traditional treatments to participate in his newly formed Eight Week Stress Reduction Program, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His interest was not just working with medically defined pain but with the whole of the human condition. What he came to call ‘The Full Catastrophe of Living’.

NOW more than 38 years later, Mindful-Based Stress Reduction has become widely successful and most cited Mindful Based Intervention. Mindful Based Interventions are being taught in all sorts of contexts and entered the mainstream of health care, educational institutions, corporate world, prisons and the US Military.

Jon Kabat Zinn defines mindfulness as … ‘paying attention, in a particular way on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally to unfolding experience’. He often says that mindfulness is not about attaining benefits or fixing problems – that it is about discovering there is more right with you than wrong with you – we learn to befriend ourselves as we are and how to drop in on ourselves and hang out in awareness.

However, there is a curious paradox at the heart of mindfulness training. Mindfulness means ‘AWARENESS’, yet surely when any of us are suffering from searing physical or emotional pain, we seem to be only too aware of our suffering. We may ask ourselves then, just how on earth can learning to become even more aware possibly help?

One of the intentions of mindfulness practices is to develop and train participants’ attention in present moment awareness. To deepen their capacity to be where they are and with things as they are with an attitude of kindness, openness and curiosity. Participants in a Mindful-Based Intervention learn to clearly perceive thoughts, physical sensations and emotions as they occur in the present moment rather than just reacting in automatic and habitual ways.

Mindfulness is sometimes called kindly awareness. Mindfulness gives us a different approach to work with physical and emotional pain. Participants learn to turn towards the pain or discomfort, to just touch the edges as best they can, instead of running away or fighting it. This opens the door to greater acceptance in a kinder, more accessible and compassionate way.

This mindfulness based approach sees everyone as having deep resources that they are unaware of, because no one has told them how to recognise and cultivate them. The pain cannot be ignored or wished away. But underneath the clanging noise of the pain there is a deep wholeness that cannot be damaged by illness and disease … a wholeness that can be re-inhabited if just for a moment, we could approach willingly, sense precisely and befriend tenderly the body that seems to be letting us down so badly. It would be a mistake to think that mindfulness is only a technique for dealing with problems or pain. It is also a very effective way of enhancing and enriching life.

The MBI Program is 8 weeks duration. Participants meet once a week for two hours, as well as one half day session. Participants are introduced to formal mindful techniques which include the sitting and walking meditation, body scan and mindful movement. These formal practices encourage present moment awareness of the breath, body sensations, thoughts and emotions. The Informal practices seek to integrate mindfulness into the activities of daily life.

All the practices introduced in the program can be used alongside medical treatment. They are not intended as a substitute for medical care and advice from a qualified medical practitioner or suitable therapist.

For more information contact Denise at: mindfulness@limpopopainclinic.co.za