Cancer patients at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute can take free meditation classes due to a philanthropic grant. “I see meditation almost as a requirement in any therapeutic regimen for cancer treatment,” said Patricia Arcari, co-director of Dana-Farber’s Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies. “The meditation helps with pain management, nausea, and other side effects of the treatments, but it also helps them express more self-compassion and appreciation of life.”
To see why meditation is more powerful than drugs, it helps to understand more about pain vs suffering and what’s really transpiring:
- Pain or what may be referred to as Primary pain results from illness, injury or damage to the body or nervous system. This is raw data from the body informing you of the injury.
- Secondary pain or what we might call suffering is the mind’s reaction to Primary pain but is often far more intense and long lasting. Crucially, it is controlled by an ‘amplifier’ in the brain that governs the overall intensity of suffering.
Yogis have known about this tendency of the mind to suffer for thousands of years and how to treat it. Science is just now getting around to studying the actual events in the brain.
Studies show the human mind does not simply feel pain; it also processes the information that it contains. Its first responsibility is to find the underlying causes so that you can avoid further pain or damage to the body. But In effect, the mind zooms in on your pain for a closer look as it tries to find a solution to your suffering. Since our mind likes to create habits, it begins doing so repeatedly. This “zooming-in” amplifies your experience of pain.
Also, as we avert our experience of suffering (or try to push it away), we tense our muscles and create even more tension with increased pain and suffering.
So, what have the yogis said for thousands of years and what makes meditation more powerful than morphine? It’s simply the act of bringing your awareness to what you’re actually experiencing in the present moment without judgment that reduces suffering. That ability or skill is developed by a daily practice of an ancient time-honored practice like The Art of Ascension. Using this tool daily has many wonderful by-products, one being an ability to experience “what is” without judgement.
One of the fallacies about our experience of pain is, at first glance it seems so solid. But the deeper we go into awareness, we realize nothing is solid. From our daily practice, we learn through experience that everything in life comes and goes.
So, for an experienced meditator, when or if they experience pain, suffering becomes optional.