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Lions Roar : July 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2012 74 counterintuitive, almost like punish- ing yourself,” she says. In fact, Bauer- Wu notes that many of the mind-body programs for cancer patients reinforce this basic tendency by using guided imagery “to take you to the mountains, to the ocean, to a tropical island in your mind.” The cornerstone of the mindful- ness approach to illness is that you need to learn how to accept where you are, and then you can notice the sensations and respond appropriately. “If your pain really is acute and reaches a seven or eight out of ten, then guided imagery or other methods of dealing with such intensity may be appropriate,” she says. “When you know that the pain is not at that kind of acuity, you have the power to investigate it with mindful awareness.” The first step, says Bauer-Wu, is to be aware of sensations as just sensations. So often we have a single solid label for our pain and we interpret what it means. We can begin to construct storylines of worst- case scenarios or self-loathing. “However,” Bauer-Wu writes in Leaves Falling Gently, “if you step back and curiously observe what your body is feeling, you realize that pain is not just one big overwhelming thing, but rather a constellation of many subtle bodily sensations, such as dull- ness, sharpness, aching, or throbbing, that likely change from moment to moment.” Noticing the nuanced qualities and fluc- tuations of sensations gives them less power over you. “If you have pain in the lower back,” Bauer-Wu asks, “what are its qualities? Is it throbbing, burning, and piercing? Is it constant?” You can direct your attention to different parts of your body and experi- ence the sensations in each one. “This gives you a richer sense of your whole body,” she says, and you begin to realize that you are not your pain. Of course, illness, hospitalization and facing the possibility of death can bring on overwhelming emotions. Just as with bodily sensations, patients are encour- aged (as are caregivers) not to turn away and resist, but rather to become familiar with what they’re experiencing by observ- ing it. Whether they’re experiencing fear, Graduate Education at the Frontier of Psychology and Spirituality At ITP we are asking the important questions. Join us and earn your degree. Can higher consciousness be measured? Psy.D. | Ph.D. | M.A . | Certificate Online and On Campus Learning Spiritually-oriented Clinical Psychology Transpersonal Psychology • Counseling (MFT) Women’s Spirituality • Education and Research Coaching • Spiritual Guidance • Creative Expression www.itp.edu • 650-493-4430 WWW.PEMACHODRONFOUNDATION.ORG Practice Peace Pema is spending this year alone in retreat. On the occasion of her birthday, July 14, she’s invited you to meditate with her in a ‘virtual retreat’. Wherever you are around the world - alone or with friends – join us in ‘practicing peace’ together. Pema has recorded a teaching video just for those who register to take part. Free of charge. Please register at: www.pemachodronfoundation.org Meditate Together with Pema Chödrön July 14, 2012