When faced with a real or imagined threat, we usually experience a “fight or flight” reaction. Our sympathetic nervous system raises our heart rate, dilates our pupils, tenses our muscles, and diverts blood from all non-essential fighting organs to the muscles and the brain. We size up the threat and decide whether we will fight it or run for our lives. Of course for most people living in developed nations, there are very few of these actual threats that will harm us but our bodies will respond with the same reaction even when somebody, for example, steals the coveted parking spot right in front of the grocery store. Oh the rage we feel.
Let’s consider for a moment the more chronic challenges. What about the chronic pain you are not taking time to have examined? What about the relationship that has not been meeting your needs for years? What about the job that is not fulfilling your passions? These chronic issues often fly under the radar of our acute sympathetic response for fight or flight but they still cause physical symptoms. With chronic low back pain or chronic pain in the shoulders or headaches – what is the cause? For many people, it seems easier to turn away from the source of the pain and have somebody treat the symptom or even ignore it all together. Having your chronic pain massaged is often easier than really understanding the source.
Many unresolved issues are the result of not wanting to turn around and look the source in the eye. Many people have become so used to walking away from the issue that the symptoms of chronic pain, fatigue, depression, apathy, dispassion, have become an accepted part of being. What is the source of the problem? Everyone will experience pain and challenges – that is part of being human. If we deal with the sprained knee or rejection of love or even loss of a loved one, we can start to heal. Turning away from the challenge or the pain causes the pain to begin the neurological process of integration into chronic issues. Our brain begins to re-wire and soon you forget why the pain started in the first place but…it is still there.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to something in present moment. If you have pain or some other chronic issue, try to take time each day and focus on the source and the feelings associated. Breathe into the source. Practice releasing what your are holding onto. Turn and look the source in the eye. Release the grip. Begin to let it go. Start the healing process.