Chronic Pain : Take Time to Meditate

Marissa Harshman

Mantra. Guided. Mindfulness. Yoga.

Meditation comes in many forms -- many of which don't even require saying "ohmmm" or contorting the body into uncomfortable positions.

"You meditate every time you do something because meditation is just focus," said Dr. Matthew Zorn, a naturopathic physician and meditation instructor at Vancouver Yoga Center. "When you're meditating, you're just focusing on being."

Meditation is a practice to quiet one's mind. It's taking time to just engage in the action of being and giving the body a break, Zorn said.

"The body is kind of like a horse, it goes wherever the mind takes it," he said.

The mind is constantly full of chatter, stress and agitation, said Tenaya Virgin, meditation instructor and owner of Breathe Yoga & Massage in east Vancouver. Meditation can help quiet the chatter, calm the mind and create space between thoughts, he said.

Meditation can look many different ways. People can sit, walk or lie down. They can chant to themselves or sit in silence. They can meditate in quiet or while at work. It can last three minutes or 30 minutes, Virgin said.

"There's a variety of different ways to meditate," he said. "Everyone needs to find what works for them, and not one style works for everyone."

People new to meditation should seek guidance from an instructor or friend who meditates. After learning the basics, they can make meditation their own, Zorn said.

There are some things people can do to set the scene for meditating. Closing the eyes and keeping the spine straight -- whether sitting or lying down -- are helpful, Zorn said. The most important thing, Virgin said, is to learn the proper breathing technique. Breathing can slow the mind.

"The underlying theme, no matter what you do, is to allow yourself to be calm inside," Zorn said.

Meditation carries a variety of benefits, which include reducing blood pressure, stress and anxiety. Meditation can also help a person reach his or her goals, manage pain, sleep better and promote emotional and physical healing, Virgin said.

"It's a real good process for resolving conflicts in people's lives," he said.

Ongoing meditation can also help a person develop an awareness of one's body, said VeAnne Virgin, Tenaya's wife. A person who practices meditation will recognize when their stress levels are rising and take steps to calm the mind and body, rather than reacting to the stressor, she said.

Meditation can also help a person disengage from the laundry list of things to do and sharpen focus, Zorn said.

"We don't have any control of external events," he said. "What we do have control over is our internal response to those things."

While much of a person's focus is pointed outward, meditation brings the focus inward and allows the person to feel what's going on within their body, Zorn said.

"You're engaged in being, not doing," he said. "We're human beings, not human doings."

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com.

(c)2012 The Columbian (Vancouver, Wash.)

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