Posts Tagged ‘MINDFULNESS’

Navigating pain and suffering, does it Fluctuate



Whether we experience chronic pain or strong emotions, their intensity and duration fluctuate.

How long does a strong emotion last, ten minutes, an hour, a day, or longer?

How about chronic pain, it can last a lifetime, but it fluctuates, intensity spikes, then recede with stimulus.

I have found the biggest influences are attitude and thoughts. Being sedentary, acting like a victim, increases suffering.

For me, being part of a 15 person chronic pain group highlighted this importance.

For instance, if I fear my pain, it gains power.

Pain lasts longer and becomes more intense, more problematic.

My thoughts are the big influencer, for good or more suffering.

Let’s take my chronic pain: I do not fear my pain, I know it fluctuates and does no damage until it reaches an intolerable pain level.

This lets me ignore my pain 95% of the time.

The less I entertain thoughts about my chronic pain or PTSD, the more enjoyable my life becomes.

How about you, ever think of how your thoughts increase suffering?

Ptsd pain reacts the same way.

Our tightly held thoughts and emotions have a great impact on suffering or lack of suffering.

Updated: THE PAIN PARADOX from “Trauma Sensitive Mindfulness”.


There is one more idea in Buddhism and MBSR that shapes our orientation to mindfulness: the notion that our avoidance of suffering can exacerbate it.



Mindfulness experts John Briere and Catherine Scott referred to this as the pain paradox—the observation that our natural tendency to escape, deny, or withdraw from pain only intensifies and prolongs the distress.

What we resist, the saying goes, persists.

This paradox was key to Kabat-Zinn’s introduction of MBSR to the medical community. (

When he originally approached doctors with the idea of having patients meditate, Kabat-Zinn was advocating for a fundamentally different approach to suffering—one that lay at the heart of the Buddhist tradition he’d trained in.

“From the perspective of mindfulness,” he wrote, “
nothing needs fixing.

Nothing needs to be forced to stop, or change, or go away.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, this idea raised eyebrows.

Western medicine was built largely on helping alleviate people’s pain, offering interventions such as medication or surgery.

Mindfulness ran completely counter to this paradigm. How could paying closer attention to one’s pain alleviate it?

Yet doctors were also open to the idea.
Each of them had patients they couldn’t cure and who were resistant to conventional treatment approaches. Doctors and their patients had little to lose.

The first MBSR studies thus began with those who were suffering from chronic pain.

Kabat-Zinn wanted to see whether they could mobilize their own internal responses to the suffering they were experiencing. “We invited them, paradoxically,” he said, “to put the welcome mat out for whatever sensations they were experiencing, just to see if they could attend to them moment by moment and ‘befriend’ the actuality of their experience, even briefly.”

The results were successful. Patients found that their relationship to pain shifted positively when they practiced mindfulness.

At times, their pain even disappeared. Patients also reported discovering that the vexing sensations that lived inside them were transient and shifting.

Rather than being constant throughout their day, the pain was shifting over time—a huge realization for those who felt perpetually burdened by their bodies.

Mindfulness was helping people relate to their pain differently.

For some, it was even opening a door to a freedom they had forgotten or had previously not known.

Use the creative side of the brain to heal

The cognitive side of the brain wants to handle complex things, accelerate to hyper speed, even multi-task at times.


Ptsd and depression power up using thoughts, thinking, ruminating, and anxiety.

Meditation/Mindfulness slows the mind down, focuses on the breath, allows the body to go at warp speed as the mind empties of thought.

Thought drives the cognitive side, always running, always creating more and more thoughts.

Solving the world’s most complex problem, like Einstein inventing E= mc2 does not necessarily lead to a happy life.

Thoughts and happiness can be estranged concepts.

I am happiest when thought has ceased and simple clarity reigns, the sight of a flower, the special fragrance brings a smile.

Our thoughts and memories are the problems for PTSD sufferers.

Ptsd memories trap us in our past, thoughts are the vehicle of remembrance, triggers are the physiological consequence.

I am happiest while existing in this present moment, free of thought, worry, doubt and fear.

Thinking can change this instantly.

It’s a razor’s edge when our Ptsd is active.

Thinking is a small part of our mind’s capability.

The creative right hemisphere is expansive, thought is feeble compared to this almost infinite space.

The cognitive side of the brain is a beach ball, the right creative hemisphere is the pacific ocean.

Remember trauma is stored in the amygdala on the right side of the brain.

We can not access the right hemisphere consciously, herein lies the rub.


The Pauses are the doors


Meditation in words: A slow focused inhale, followed by a pause under pressure, next the slow exhale releases the pressure, ending with a calm pause.



Repeat 1,000 times. Now let’s dive into the minutia of the breath.

The pauses are similar to suspended animation, nothing is moving, silence is the deepest.

The first pause mixes with the energy we use to suspend the breath, holding back the pressure in the lungs.

The second pause happens with us at complete rest.

You can hear the inhales and exhales, however soft. Practice.

The lungs fill, expand, then empty, this all has movement and sound, the pauses are silent, nothing is moving.

Perfect time to feel the tiniest body sensations, time to observe gently and release.

Each breath brings two pauses, two chances to deepen our focus.

I love this focus on the breath and body when trauma stops responding to my efforts to heal.

When I sit (meditate), I am focused on the next 30 minutes, PTSD drops away.

I can own 30-minute intervals, that’s power in my battle.

We need power over PTSD, even if it is temporary.

Going back to basics

Over the last couple of months, the online Kundalini group has been processing grief.



Handling grief every day has riled my PTSD, I know this reaction means grief needs more work.

I have taken a break, reverting back to my well-established meditation practice.

No talking, chants, or hand positions, just me, eyes closed, totally focused on the breath, sounds, and opening my heart.

Simple, me alone with my mind, like old times.

The quiet has calmed my intrusive thoughts momentarily, I fully resist thinking anything is permanent.

As they say, back to basics when things fall apart.

If you follow this blog, PTSD and depression are kind of a rollercoaster ride.

One where we can have long, calm, slow, straightaways, flanked by the high crests and terrifying fast descents always lurking in the distance.

Go farther down the wormhole and there are giant loops of intolerable confusion and anxiety.



I have a momentary pause, a peaceful calm that only visits for short periods, lately.

As always, when the pain and suffering seem unbearable, that is when we never give in, never give up.

Some days my job is to endure ptsd and depression until it lifts a little.

We will always have issues, hopefully, we will take action appropriately.

How much shame can a person endure?

How……… DEEP…….does depression sink for a seriously abused kid, who reaches 70, weakened from chronic pain and PTSD, damaged to his core?


I find myself beyond shame at times, beyond any familiar place, desires have no oxygen, life has become a wasteland.

Things are broken internally, worry, fear, and worthlessness haunt me.

I celebrate when darkness comes, in bed alone, all covered up, feeling safe that another day has been navigated.

It’s all inside my damaged brain.

I am broken.

Ptsd brought fear and intense anxiety, much different than depression, which links with my shame to power my destructive behaviors.

It’s like a deep well, a claustrophobic narrowness with no bottom, no light and little hope.

I have no explanation for the cruelty of birth and people.

Some of us abused kids have suffered a lifetime from the damage done.

We live a life of avoidance, non attachment, danger is a constant companion.

My life is entirely irrational, my mind has been fighting a war inside my head.

The physical damage has faded, the betayals never leave.


Emotional Regulation: Yikes!!!!!!



Excerpt: From Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD

“The Body Keeps the Score”

“When trauma emanates from within the family, children experience a crisis of loyalty and organize their behavior to survive within their families. Being prevented from articulating what they observe and experience, traumatized children will organize their behavior around keeping the secret, deal with their helplessness with compliance or defiance, and acclimate in any way they can to entrapment in abusive or neglectful situations.

Being left to their own devices leaves chronically traumatized children with deficits in emotional self-regulation. This results in problems with self-definition as reflected by a lack of a continuous sense of self, poorly modulated affect and impulse control, including aggression against self and others, and uncertainty about the reliability and predictability of others, expressed as distrust, suspiciousness, and problems with intimacy, resulting in social isolation.

Chronically traumatized children tend to suffer from distinct alterations in states of consciousness, including amnesia, hypermnesia, dissociation, depersonalization and derealization, flashbacks and nightmares of specific events, school problems, difficulties in attention regulation, disorientation in time and space, and sensorimotor developmental disorders. The children often are literally are “out of touch” with their feelings, and often have no language to describe internal states.

When a child lacks a sense of predictability, he or she may experience difficulty developing of object constancy and inner representations of their own inner world or their surroundings. As a result, they lack a good sense of cause and effect and of their own contributions to what happens to them.

Without internal maps to guide them, they act, instead of plan, and show their wishes in their behaviors, rather than discussing what they want. Unable to appreciate clearly who they or others are, they have problems enlisting other people as allies on their behalf. Other people are sources of terror or pleasure but are rarely fellow human beings with their own sets of needs and desires.

These children also have difficulty appreciating novelty. Without a map to compare and contrast, anything new is potentially threatening. What is familiar tends to be experienced as safer, even if it is a predictable source of terror.

Traumatized children rarely discuss their fears and traumas spontaneously. They also have little insight into the relationship between what they do, what they feel, and what has happened to them. They tend to communicate the nature of their traumatic past by repeating it in the form of interpersonal en- actments, both in their play and in their fantasy lives.


Trauma is delayed until later in life

At the beginning of a Band of Brothers episode, a few of the actual soldiers gave short interviews.

One older gentleman talked about seeing death everywhere, your buddies blew apart.

He was one of the lucky ones who this gore did not impact when it happened, but later in life things changed.

His face distorted, tears rolled down uncontrollably, the horror of a 50-year-old war was alive, and it had great power, held intense fear and loss.

His trauma is different but the fear I carry is similar, the haunted look on a lost soul is the same.

This old soldier just broke down like he was a small child, helpless and suffering.

His flashbacks and thoughts dominated his life, sleeping brought nightmares.

It is irrational, abstract, and stored without conscious access.

These vets suffer, numb themselves with drugs and alcohol, suicides rates skyrocket.

In war we teach young kids how to kill, we never give them counsel on how to mentally handle killing another human being.

For abused kids, childhood is our battlefield.

No deaths or gore, it’s not lethal trauma, the physical abuse uses no weapons, rather paddling devices combined with emotional abuse.

Realize Ptsd gets progressively worse as time goes along unless some healing is taking place.

Life is filled with pain, fear, worry, and unworthiness, suffering is a daily event.

We did not go to war, we were born into abuse.

Fear has a relationship with childhood Abuse

I was afraid as a kid, my earliest memories contain fear, an invisible demon.

Without a developed brain to deflect the abuse, fear became a dominant emotion.

Fear negatively impacted my nervous system, instead of attachment, my brain was on high alert for danger.

So many of our habitual behaviors were to avoid danger.

We anticipated danger, analyzed every situation before going anywhere.

This does not develop a positive attitude, an open heart or a curious mind.

My childhood was about pleasing then avoiding my father.

The specific do not matter, my brain wired under extreme duress and fear. So did many of your brains.

Somehow, from reading, meditating and therapy, I feel free to share, helping others I hope.

We do not cure serious childhood abuse, we navigate the triggers, hopefully make their duration less, then try to live in the present.

Mundane things others do effortlessly, take an emotional and physical toll on us.

We are different.

We are more serious, more cautious, we fear shame and betrayal more than wanting pleasure.

No normal person can get their head around that concept.

My advice, retreat when necessary, accept the difficulty, but never, ever give up.

I have woken up to my trauma fears every day of my life.

I am not the only one.

The Shame Trigger Questions

Brene Brown:

“How do we start to recognize our shame triggers?

What do we need to do to start acknowledging our vulnerabilities?

I think we begin by examining each of the shame categories and trying to unearth the unwanted identities that cause us shame.

As I was interviewing both men and women, many of the same phrases kept coming up in the interviews—the ones that I heard over and over were “I don’t want to be seen as . . .” and “I don’t want people to think I’m . . .”

There were many variations on this including, “I would die if people thought I was . . .” or “I couldn’t stand people thinking I’m . . .”

As these phrases indicate, shame is about perception.

Shame is how we see ourselves through other people’s eyes.

When I interviewed women about shame experiences, it was always about “how others see me” or “what others think.”

And often, there is even a disconnect between who we want to be and how we want to be perceived.

For example, one woman in her seventies told me, “I’m OK when I’m alone.

I know I’m changing. I know things are slowing down and everything is not what it used to be.

I just can’t stand the thought of others seeing it and dismissing me as a person.

Being dismissed is shameful.

To help us begin to recognize some of our shame triggers, let’s look at the questions I use in my workshop sessions. We start with these fill-in-the-blank statements, which should be answered separately for each of the shame categories:

I want to be perceived as __, _____, _________________, ___________ and __________. I do NOT want to be perceived as ______, ____, ___, ______ or ___.

These are fairly simple statements; however, when you start to think about these questions in relation to the twelve shame categories, this can be a probing and powerful start to the process.

But it’s important to remember that it is only a start.

As I’ve said throughout the book, there are no easy answers or quick fixes.”

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