Friday, April 8, 2011

Oh, the Pain!

This story begins with On Campus Interviews (“OCI”) during law school. Likened to speed dating, OCIs go from 8am until 4 or 5pm, and each interview lasts 20 minutes. Firms and organizations inform students who has gotten and interview, and the students sign up for a slot. Students wait in the waiting room and are called into the interview room where interviewers have sat all day asking the same questions and probably getting similar answers. Students get asked similar questions from everyone and give their canned answers. A long and tiring day for all.

I once had an interview with one of the big, international law firms. It was scheduled for close to the end of the day; we were exhausted. When I walked into the room, one of the interviewers apologized for having to stand up during the interview because his back hurt too much to sit down. Anyone who sits at a computer all day knows the pain it can cause.

The “normal” remedy in modern society is to take a pill, hope the pain goes away, but a “new” discovery has been found that works even better – meditation. The April 6 edition of the Journal of Neuroscience published the results of a study showing that meditation can lead to pain-relieving effects in the brain. How do you do this meditation?


Yes, it really is that simple. The study used a device that heated the participants’ skin to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and the results showed a greater reduction in pain than even morphine. And this was after only 4, 20-minute sessions focusing on the breath.

I am fascinated by all the neuroscience research that is happening these days, and I know that everyday it is “proving” what yogis and meditators have known for years, but I cannot explain what causes this to happen. I can only talk about my own experiences and what I have seen in those I know.

Pain, especially the pain caused by sitting hunched over a computer all day, is caused by stuck energy. The body was not designed to be static. It was not designed to sit in a chair. It was certainly not designed to sit at a computer (says the person who now spends 8-12 hours a day at a computer). The body is designed to move. When we sit and stare at a computer, the flow of the body ceases. It stagnates where we hunch up our shoulders, and when we sit, we tighten our hips increasing pain in the low back. Years and years of the same static placement, and you have chronic pain.

Breath is a tool to release that. First, consciously meditating and breathing usually means sitting differently. You attempt to sit with a straight back. You consciously try to relax. Your focus can turn away from the ding of the email, the RSS feed, the phone calls, etc., and you can focus on just one thing – breathing. That’s quite an uncommon practice in society, and it does wonders to allow the body to move and relax. All of a sudden, we take the body out of its habitual patterns and begin to release them.

But the study found more than that. The study found that the act of meditation actually changed the brain functioning and increased pain tolerance. Thus, meditation has a dual benefit. It allows the pain to release, allows you to relax in the moment, and it also allows you to feel the pain less the next time it comes. Is 5 or 10 minutes of meditation a day worth enough to you? Is it worth giving up the advil addiction? Is it worth not having to stand through an interview after a full day of them?

After all, can you get any work done when you are in so much pain? Five minutes to release the pain might just give you hours of pain-free time to work.


© 2011 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment