An approach to managing your pain based on the method of Steven Levine, ‘Softening around Pain.’ The key is relaxing into and creating a sense of space around the pain.
You might find it helpful to have a friend slowly read the following to you (with plenty of gaps for the suggestions to be taken in!). Alternatively, make a recording, using your own voice or that of someone who you love and trust. (The titles that appear throughout are not to be spoken)
We have learnt to fear and fight pain, yet any discomfort is the body’s way of letting us know that it needs our care.
Resisting pain creates tension, and, in turn, tension worsens the pain.
This method is a guide in letting go of resistance and releasing the associated tension. By approaching pain with tenderness, we can feel how that changes our experience of it.
Make sure you are sitting or lying comfortably – and you can adjust your position, if you need to, at any time throughout this meditation. It will be helpful if you are undisturbed for the duration and for a few minutes afterwards.
When you are ready, allow your eyes to close. Now, take a few moments to bring your awareness from the outside world, inwards, to yourself. Bring your awareness to your body, sitting or lying comfortably. Gently and lovingly, now, invite your body to relax. If you have a favourite method for relaxation, use that now. Otherwise, here is very simple approach through which you can find yourself deeply relaxed within moments.
Breathing at a pace that is easy and natural for you, each time you inhale, open your eyes. As you exhale, allow your eyes to close. Each time you breathe in, open your eyes; as you breathe out, close your eyes. Inhaling, and your eyes open; exhaling, and your eyes close. Yes, that’s right.
Moving towards the sensation
With your eyes closed, allow your awareness to move, gently and lovingly now, to anywhere in your body where there is discomfort or pain, any place that needs your attention. As your awareness moves towards that sensation, notice the presence of any resistance … Just observing that; watching what is, in this particular moment, and continuing to move closer to the discomfort or pain. Consciously and lovingly now releasing any holding around the sensation. Your awareness moving within, tenderly loosening the space all around the sensation
Tenderly inviting the flesh to soften. Tenderly inviting an openness around the sensation, inviting a spaciousness. Releasing, in tenderness. Here and now is space to be… as much space as you need and as much time as you need.
In your own way and your own time opening around the sensation. Letting it be. Muscles becoming tender. The place in which the sensation comes from, softening. Spaciousness. The skin loosening. Melting in tenderness… soft. Flesh loosening, opening. Allowing any sensation to be in this tender opening. Releasing tension… releasing any holding. Tender around any pain. Tendons softening…flesh softening… skin softening. A tender releasing all around the sensation. Soft body… soft mind. Letting what is be, and being present to what is, with tenderness, as sensations come and go.
Releasing in the bone, releasing in the marrow. Tenderly releasing any tension that may arise. Let it come. Let it go. Staying present and being with whatever is, with tenderness. In your own time and your own way lovingly feeling the tissue opening to invite sensation just to float…floating like a cloud. Releasing all around. Softening to the very center of the cells. Awareness holding sensation… awareness tenderly cradling sensation in softness, in cloud-like spaciousness. Sensations floating in awareness. Skin, tissue, muscles, tendons – soft and pliant… spacious. Bone soft, allowing, willing….
Noticing the characteristics of the sensation
A tender awareness being with sensation. A tender awareness entering to the very heart of sensation. A tender awareness exploring sensation in the spaciousness. Do the sensations stay still or do they move? Does the area of sensation have one shape or is it fluid, changing?
Lovingly observing. Moment-to-moment sensation floating in soft, tender awareness that lovingly explores what is. Do these sensations have density? Are they thin or thick? Are they round? Are they flat? Moment-to-moment sensation received in moment-to-moment, loving awareness.
Tenderly exploring the nature of sensation. Do these sensations have a texture? Are they rough? Are they smooth? Releasing all about sensation…. Spaciousness, as flesh, soft muscles, are relaxed, open…tissue allowing and tender.
Caring with Tenderness
Noticing softly, caringly, these sensations that may have gone so long unattended to. Meet them with a soft, allowing awareness, meet them tenderly as you would a child. Kindly… compassionately. Lovingly, letting sensations float – cloud-like – in awareness. Tenderly connecting with sensation in its spaciousness. Gently opening to sensation with forgiveness. Allowing a caring awareness to cradle each moment of sensation. Each sensation absorbed in your tender care. Tenderness entering sensation, floating in softness, in spaciousness.
In your awareness is the healing. In your willingness to be with the sensation is the healing. In your tenderness is the healing. The tenderness you feel for so much in the world, healing your pain as well. Tenderness for all those in pain.
And when you are ready, gently coming back. If you feel to, moving the body a little – wriggling your toes, opening and closing your hands and having a gentle stretch. And before you open your eyes, taking a moment to remember this space you have been in and the journey into it. Knowing that whenever you want to, you can consciously and tenderly move towards any pain and release the holding there.
And slowly opening your eyes, coming back feeling relaxed and refreshed!