Mindfulness for Pain Practice: Soften-Soothe-Allow
Please find a comfortable position, sitting or lying down. Close your eyes and take three relaxing breaths.
Place your hand over your heart, or another soothing place, for a few moments to remind yourself that you are in the room and that you, too, are worthy of kindness. Allowing yourself to settle into whatever posture you have chosen for your body, and to take a few slow, deep mindful breaths to settle the mind and body.
And as your breath returns to a regular rate and rhythm, allow yourself to be soothed and comforted by the flow of breathing without having to breathe in any particular way. Simply allowing your breath to breathe itself. As you are ready, beginning to expand awareness to the entire body. Your body, sitting here, breathing. Allow your attention to lightly sweep your body from head to toe, and take note of whatever you notice is present. Coolness or warmth, tingling, numbness, tension, or even discomfort or pain.
If you are aware of the presence of pain or difficulty in your body, see if you can make a little space for it in your awareness with a little kindness, almost as if you were comforting a small child or beloved pet in pain. See if you can hold the area of difficulty in your awareness and notice what emotions might also be rising at this moment. If so, maybe seeing if a label for the emotions may come up—a name. For example, anger. Sadness. Grief. Confusion. Fear. Despair. If you’re unsure what emotion you are feeling, that’s OK for now. Simply experiencing the emotion is enough. And if you are having many emotions, seeing if you can name the strongest emotion associated with a situation. Now repeating the name of the emotion to yourself in a tender, understanding voice, as if you were validating for a friend what they were feeling: “That’s longing.” “That’s grief.”
Returning your attention to the area of your body where you are most aware of your pain or discomfort, see if you can just feel the general sense of discomfort. Now begin softening into that location of your body, letting the muscles soften, letting them relax as if in warm water. Softening. Softening. Softening.
Remember that we’re not trying to change the feeling. We’re just holding it in a tender way. If you wish, just softening a little around the edges. If the emotion is very energetic, like anger, you may want to just let the emotion flow more freely rather than softening.
Now, soothing yourself because of this difficult situation or feeling. If you wish, placing a hand over the part of your body that feels uncomfortable. And just feeling the warmth and gentle touch of your hand. Perhaps imagining warmth and kindness flowing through your hand into your body. Maybe even thinking of your body as if it were the body of a beloved child. Soothing. Soothing. Soothing.
And are there some comforting words that you might need to hear? For instance, you might imagine if you had a friend who is struggling in this way, what would you say to your friend? “I’m so sorry you feel this way. I care deeply about you.” Can you offer yourself a similar message, such as, “oh, it’s so hard to feel this. May I be kind to myself.”
Finally, allowing the discomfort to be there. Making room for it. Releasing the need to make it go away, and allowing yourself to be just as you are, just like this, if only for this moment.
Softening. Soothing. Allowing. Softening. Soothing. Allowing. Take some time and go through these three steps on your own. You may notice the feeling starts to shift or even change location. That’s OK. Just stay with it. Softening. Soothing. Allowing.
Now, letting go of the practice and focusing on your body as a whole. Allowing yourself to feel whatever you feel. To be exactly as you are in this moment.