Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment without judgment or intention to change anything. Simply being the observer of our experience. Thus, in the “being mode” there is no expectation to achieve a particular goal because the focus is on accepting what is going on in the moment and not fighting to change it. In fact, with pain, the more we fight it, the more it fights back. When we practice observing and accepting what is – in this moment only – it becomes less overwhelming. We step behind the waterfall. In the context of pain, when we become aware of the signals in our body we often also think about how long we have had this pain and worry about how much longer we will have this pain.
This is a lot more overwhelming and “threatening” to the system compared to simply observing that we are experiencing pain in this moment alone.
This pause allows the signals to be processed differently in the brain and helps stop the unnecessary racing thoughts, or rumination, that can often lead to unhealthy coping skills. This new approach to living does not come easily because it is unfamiliar to what we are used to. When we practice something unfamiliar, our error-detection signal is triggered, which can lead us to questioning new or different coping skills as being helpful or not. The mind’s error-detection signal is there to let you know when you are doing something unfamiliar. There is no judgment in this process. It is not saying something is “right” or “wrong”, but rather “familiar” or “unfamiliar”. For example, did you ever try to brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand? If you try this, your mind will start to talk to you asking you, “why are you doing what you are doing? This is silly! Go back to doing what you’re used to doing!” That is your error-detection system in your brain!
You may experience this in the beginning process of learning and practicing mindfulness because the “being” mode is unfamiliar. Don’t worry about this happening. In fact, expect it to happen! Know
that this will dissipate with practice. The more you practice something, the more familiar it becomes. The more familiar it becomes, the less your error-detection signal will speak up.
Stephanie Yeager: Passionate about spreading the word of hope and healing for those like her, influencing a paradigm shift in the medical community toward greater understanding of chronic pelvic pain disorders, and prevention initiatives that may protect young women before onset can occur.