Monday, 2 April 2012

Mind Over Pain

Tai Chi instructor with truck rolling over him


Mind over matter…but what about mind over pain?

An interesting idea. What if, through some sort of mental state, we could reduce or even eliminate pain?

To the martial artist, pain is a serious business. Managing pain during a self defense situation can prolong your chances of survival.  Various martial arts have developed some unique approaches to pain-bearing…the iron body, hard Chi Kung, iron bell, etc…even the iron crotch! (If you go on YouTube, I’m sure you’ll find clips of iron crotch masters pulling anything from trucks to airplanes with their crotch).

There are various mental states that you can enter to manage pain. The most common is the one I used when I first broke boards: stand in a rage over the boards and drive this rage (along with your fist) down through the boards and into the floor. I’m not one to boast but I did manage 15 boards without spacers one day in front of hundreds of little witnesses in a school gymnasium.

The trouble is that this rage draws heavily on energy reserves. It’s fine – for a while – on static objects yet much more difficult against people who are moving and/or if you're involved in a long term conflict. Also, the rage keeps you just ahead of the pain – until you stop raging and the pain finally catches up.

As always, I prefer a more relaxed approach, one from the internal side of martial arts where you visualize a healing type of energy moving through the body.

One of my students applied a similar method on recurring pain from an old neck injury. He was able to eliminate the pain every time it cropped up.

What he did was to close his eyes and inhale slowly through the nose and exhale very slowly through the mouth. He ompletely relaxed his mind. Then he imagined the inside of his neck where the pain was bothering him. He imagined a type of healing energy circling very slowly inside the neck – like the most benign massage from the most tender touch in the world. (He visualized this energy as having the colour of gold. But you can imagine any colour that you like).

In his mind's eye, he watched the energy circling round and round. Once in a while, he’d whisper the word “heal” to himself, or he’d whisper the word as a thought inside his head.

Gradually, the pain left him. He was left relaxed and untroubled.

Now in class, we practise the same technique on different areas of the body such as the shoulders and the knees. I like it because it can be applied anywhere and in any place!

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