Since the summer before college, I've suffered inexplicable stomach pain at night—no doctor has ever found a reason for it. I'm now 38, and in the past four years, I've been in three serious car accidents: One cracked my tailbone, another gave me severe whiplash, and the third exacerbated my injuries. I've been dealing with chronic pain for most of my adult life.

Chiropractic and other medical treatments have done only so much. But I've been meditating in earnest since my early 20s, and recently it's become my primary pain management strategy. My mindfulness practice helps me simply be curious about my pain—What is this sensation? Is it a tingling, is it sharpness, is it heat? When I break it down this way, it becomes so much more bearable than an abstract thought like I'm in pain and I want it to go away.

Even when I'm in agony, I can ask myself, How do I want to be with this right now? Do I want to merely sit with the sensation itself, or get caught up in the story I'm telling myself about it? Which is usually that the pain is unbearable, it's ruining my life, and I hate it.

Does meditating make pain go away? Yes and no. The sensation doesn't diminish. But my perception of it has changed so radically that I no longer dread it.


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