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Meditation alternatives

Discussion in 'Structured Educational Program' started by pnwfast, Aug 27, 2016.

  1. pnwfast

    pnwfast Newcomer

    While I am new to the forum, I have read Dr. Sarno's books in the past and also read The Great Pain Deception. I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis about seven years ago. I've been to dozens of doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists, etc., all with temporary results at best and often zero results. Working with Dr. Sarno's ideas did provide some relief in the past, but I found it easy to get sucked back into the grind of daily life and to believe my pain is some structural issue that needs to be structurally fixed.

    I have also been a personal trainer for 15 years. I am very attuned to the way the body moves and functions physically, so I tend to very quickly notice any loss of range of motion or mobility in the way I exercise and move. While I do think it is necessary to address the physical body to maintain optimum range of motion and function, I feel that being attuned to it causes me anxiety any time I notice muscles or joints becoming restricted and that the anxiety is what leads to heightened awareness of the stiffness and then leads to pain and constantly trying to address these things physically while ignoring the mind's role in identifying and causing pain.

    I found this forum last night and looked at the Structerd Educacation Program and am excited to start this journey with a more specific way of tackling it.

    My biggest concern is meditation. I have been a very physically active individual since childhood. My inability to sit still for long in school resulted in constant problems with teachers. From 2nd grade until 8th grade, I was being sent out in the hall to sit alone with my desk, taken outside and paddled and yelled at that I better learn to sit still and be quiet, or sent to principals office for the stern lecture on how much of a problem I was and then paddled and sent back to class with nothing more than "you better learn to sit still and be quiet or your going to have nothing but problems". In 8th grade, I feel the teachers and so called educators finally broke my spirits. I became withdrawn and quiet externally, while I constantly raged internally. Very few problems in class in high school, but I got into alcohol and drugs to numb myself which led to several addictions that I became quiet good at hiding and denying. I have past the substance addiction stage and am drug and alcohol free for years now, but the tension and anxiety remains and seems to be its own psychological addiction.

    Well, I still can't sit still for long, especially meditating. I've literally had near psychotic episodes when I try to make myself sit still. I developed chronic fatigue as an adult and I believe a large part of this was my subconscious trying to comply with both society's and my personal command that I better learn to sit still and be quiet.

    I wanted to know if others here have simply failed to do well with meditation and what alternatives you have tried or methods to be able to handle meditation better. When my pain levels are low, I run. Running seems to be the closest thing I can find to reaching that "peace" that other people swear they get when meditating. In order to run, the breath must be practiced and controlled, and the physical act of running allows my body to use its high drive to move a lot in a way that is relaxing to me. I can literally go months without running and then take off and run 5+ miles like I never took any time off running and have great pain reduction for at least a couple of days. I've wondered, is running and other forms of rythmic exercise/movement essentially active meditation? Has anyone else used some form of a more active meditation with success in this Structured Education Program? I know my tendency toward perfectionism will make me question my ability to succeed with the program if I don't follow it to a T.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2016
  2. Lavender

    Lavender Well known member

    Hello pnwfast,
    First off, welcome to the forum. Also, just reading of your elementary school experience breaks my heart. We have all had negative memories that stand out when we think back on those times in our lives. As you read more info on TMS here, you will most likely come across studies that have shown that a vast majority of pain sufferers had childhood traumas that left an “imprint” on the neurological pathways but can be reversed. I think that it’s wonderful that you can run! Exercise is one of the ingredients Dr. Sarno includes but I believe he says to do it for the right reason; fitness, happiness, etc. but not to look at is a means to get better. Some of us here cannot walk ( yet) and so vigorous exercise is still but a dream, so do enjoy every moment of your runs!

    Best to you on your recovery.

  3. Caroline

    Caroline New Member

    Hi pnwfast

    I must confess a degree of bias here as I am a very keen mediator and have done for many years but here are some thoughts about your experience that may be useful.

    Firstly I have found from doing meditation myself and teaching others that the power of meditation comes from starting to notice how our minds work as much as it does from inducing calm (which it may or may not do). Doing meditation in order to achieve a particular state is some what of a contradiction. The practice itself is to bring our mind back to whatever we have chosen to pay attention to e.g. the breath (what the focus will very depending on style, tradition etc). Some days I can find this very calming and become deeply concentrated. On others it is a bit like having a naughty toddler running around my head and the meditation seems to last forever. So if you do choose to attempt sitting meditation try to drop expectations and consider it to be an exploration of awareness and attention - much of which will be realising how hard it is to be aware and pay attention!

    If you do try sitting do so only for short periods at first - so you're not setting yourself up to get frustrated.

    You may want to find some short led meditations that have someone guide you through - this can help keep the focus. But don't push it - especially if you have had near psychotic episodes it may be that sitting meditation is not for you. You may find the input of an experienced meditation teacher useful if you do want to explore and would be a good way to help keep you safe.

    Some Buddhist Zen schools practice walking meditation that is done quickly. In walking meditation you choose to put your attention on a particular aspect of your experience e.g. soles of you feet. Then continue to walk, in a place where you are safe and able to focus internally without putting yourself in danger, and bring your attention back to the focus again and again.

    I find walking meditation very helpful when I am angry and this is preventing me from sitting still in meditation - I usually do it in a circle in the garden or up and down the hallway.

    Although running can be meditative in some respects I don't consider it to be the same as meditation because in order to remain safe you need to be engaging and interacting with the world around you. Meditation, even if active usually involves reducing external input to some degree so that we are able to cultivate awareness and pay attention to our experience in a particular way. This needs to be done in a safe place if we are to fully embrace the experience and open into the depths of meditation.

    This is not to say that running isn't great when you are able to. And running can certainly be done mindfully - I am sure if google mindful running someone has written about it!!

    Good luck with exploring, take care of yourself.

    Ellen likes this.
  4. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    I practice Hatha yoga. Yoga is a form of mind body meditation that you may find helpful. Also I've just starting doing a daily practice of Kirtan Kriya meditation which is a form of Kundalini yoga. It's only 12 minutes long and involves singing certain sounds while touching your thumb to different fingers. If you search on YouTube there are many videos to guide the practice. I've found it more doable than other forms of sitting meditation. There is research that supports its effectiveness.

    I'm sure you can find a meditation practice that suits you.

    Good luck with the SEP and welcome to the Forum.
  5. westb

    westb Well known member

    Welcome, I can identify with many many aspects of your story, including the difficulties at school and the addictions, so my heart goes out to you. And also the perfectionism.

    At times I dislike the word "meditation". It sets up so many expectations in me of what a good meditation session should be like that I get tenser and tenser just thinking about it. But I've learned to ignore the word and just tell myself I'm going to have 5 or 10 or 20 minutes quiet time when I focus on being in the present moment and on the breath, and if my mind wanders off so be it, I just come back to the present moment once again. Some days it works really well, other days not so much because I get exasperated and anxious with myself and the process, but I do make a point of doing something every day.

    Can I also recommend also a really good little book, "The 5-Minute Meditator" by Eric Harrison, a meditation teacher. It's aimed at people who are too busy to meditate, but I think it is just as applicable for those of us who may be too anxious to meditate. I love it because at the outset the author breaks learning about meditation down into short bite-sized mini-segments. And I mean short. "3 deep sighs" is one of the preliminary exercises. I felt that at least I could do that! He does go onto more advanced meditation practises further on in the book for those that want them but the first few chapters are a very good starting point. The book has become a real stand-by and did a lot to soothe me when I was feeling that I never wanted to hear the word meditation again.

    When the pelvic pain is really bad or when I'm ultra-worried about something I chant instead I was given a mantra years ago. I love using my voice, and find it very therapeutic when I simply can't settle. There's lots of information on the internet about chanting and various mantras and phrases.

    Re exercise, I would say that if it makes you feel good then do it and enjoy it, and if you want to add yoga, mindfulness, meditation etc etc etc to your anti-TMS repertoire then just gently explore and see what works for you, what soothes you. It's a process of discovery we're all on.

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