This blog is about pain and meditation, what I discovered from personal experience and what kind of meditation helped – interestingly at times what didn’t. A few days ago a friend asked me if I had kept a diary on my full knee replacement. My answer was no but said I had learned a lot. On and off over my life I have had back ache, broken a few bones and given birth twice but nothing like the pain I have experienced recently.
I have become far more empathic to people who experience pain every day without respite and certainly humbled by the thought of them and full of respect. I was told by the doctors and nurses before the operation that it would be very painful and to be honest, in hindsight, I realise that was totally meaningless to me. They could not have said it differently either. However, it gave a friend of mine and myself time to prepare in the best way we could. Because I have been abstinent from drugs and alcohol for over 30 years I wanted to avoid opiates, so she made me a meditation tape visualising a time when my knee was pain free and I listened to it at least twice daily for about a week before the operation. I went to hospital full of confidence and very relaxed.
Although they blocked the nerves around my knee and gave me an epidural, they didn’t sedate me. I was fully awake for the sawing, hammering and soldering as well as the fun banter. I listened to an extended album of the Beatles amid the hubbub. It was all very surreal and it felt like I was in one of the comedic parts of a Shakespearean play. I happily carried on with the visualisation and the terrific nursing staff were very impressed with my ability to deal with the pain. This carried on for about three days after I got home.
Then it all changed! I started to argue with the tape. “You have no blank blank blank idea what this feels like!” I ought to mention here that I have been teaching meditation for nearly 30 years and am an NLP practitioner, but rant I did and wondered how often people ranted at me in their heads when they struggled with meditating! Well I had to get my little grey cells working as taking opiates wasn’t an option. I realised that what I could do was pant and believe me there was no danger of hyperventilating – I could only do it in short bursts and then groan. Yes, it reminded me of giving birth. As an aside, I also remembered panting helped my husband when he had a heart attack.
Once the pain eased after panting, I could focus on a one or two minute meditation. I distracted myself by watching day time television and reading pot boiler books unashamedly. Thank goodness I have a sense of humour, although occasionally I thought I had lost it, as I could laugh with people who were having similar experiences. After about ten days, I could work again from home using FaceTime and Skype. I started to move around more and do the exercises you have to do through the pain to get the knee moving. I have become addicted to ice which has been a life saver. I am bizarrely grateful for paracetamol and ibuprofen which I never thought would happen and at the same time can’t wait to stop taking them going back to alternative solutions but not quite yet. I can use the visualisation again too which is good news even if not all the time.
A week ago I had the opportunity to join 30 Day Challenge, which I had done a few years ago to finish my book Healing the Ouch of Disappointment. I just jumped at the chance to work with John Williams again and get Smell the Roses, a meditation workbook, finished and out there. It has really helped me get my creative juices going despite the on-going pain which I need to remember is about healing my knee. The first month is over and they have said it takes two. By that time Smell the Roses will be up and running as a digital workbook.
I appreciate even more the love and support from friends and family, the little things that bring so much joy: gifts of flowers, plants, books, treats. Wandering slowly out in the garden and watching nature unfurl, my grandchildren shrieking in delight as a chicken escapes. All of this can be a form of meditation and Smell the Roses is about busting a lot of myths around what meditation is. Needless to say I have added a section about pain and meditation. By the way, John’s latest book is called Screw Work Break Free and is worth a read.