Changing the Patterns: Simple Awareness and Allowing
The first step to changing the automatic patterns that can maintain and intensify pain is to learn to change our response to the pain itself. In a nutshell, we need to gradually weaken the automatic tendency to try to fight or mentally control our physical symptoms. While this tendency seems logically to be in keeping with what we want, the reality is that it triggers a cycle that maintains and intensifies symptoms (see previous page).
By bringing simple mindful awareness to our experience, the best that we can, time after time, we can gradually weaken the link between experiencing pain and triggering the activation of the threat / protection system which starts of the cycle of misery described earlier. In doing this it is important that we don't strive to do it 'properly' or 'completely'. Along with striving comes the possibility that we might not do well enough, which will also activate the threat / protection system. We need to accept that we are what we are, and that the best we can do is to simply guide the mind in each moment that we are aware towards the path of simply allowing what is there to be present. Although we will still have many moments when we are caught up in our automatic patterns, we can take comfort in the knowledge that every moment of simple awareness and allowing of experience is helping to weaken the ongoing cycle of pain and misery.
This is the first step of our mind training for effective pain management. It is simply mindfulness, which is widely accessible currently through local classes and internet-based learning. For most people, attending a group or sessions with a Mindfulness teacher who provides guidance is far preferable to trying to practice alone. It is also highly recommended that you check out the credentials of any potential Mindfulness teacher who should have their own regular Mindfulness practice and supervision.