B is for bored? All of the emotions that I could pick that start with B, and I pick bored?
But I am going to talk about bored in the context of chronic pain: and suddenly it is not boring at all.
Welcome to 7 Sins and friends, a spectrum, a kaleidoscope, an ABC of emotions.
If you hear the same sound over and over, like a faucet dripping, can you tune it out? I can. I can tune out practically any noise and I have fallen asleep under bright light in a Casino room full of ringing and blinging and alarming machines.
You may not have quite that level of ignoring something, but you can certainly tune things out. I have been reading Jon Kabat Zinn’s books on Mindfulness Meditation and I have used his mindfulness CD. I was having trouble sleeping after my father died, and I would use the CD. However, I used it in the reverse of how it is meant.
I used the body scan. Dr. Zinn talks in a slow calm tone and has the listener move from body part to body part, just feeling what is there. Not tightening or releasing muscles, but just starting with the left toes. At the start he says, “This is to fall more awake, not to fall asleep.” And I fell asleep every time.
But what does this have to do with pain? If you have tried meditation and focusing on your breath, your mind wanders. It gets bored. It starts think about the grocery list, or that person who yelled at you or ….. anything but the breath. You keep returning your mind to the breath. One day I had a hurt knee and was trying to go to sleep and thought…. hmmm. So I focused all my attention on the knee pain. Really tried to get inside my knee. Felt the pain fully and entirely….. and soon I was thinking about my grocery list. I pulled my mind back to my knee. My mind was sulky: yes, it hurts some, so what? Can’t we do something else? I am bored!
We are taught that pain is bad and I see many people in clinic who are afraid because of back pain. They are afraid to move because pain means something is wrong. Only most of the time it means that they have injured back muscles. The back muscles cramp up to protect themselves. The muscles must be soothed and stretched and healed and to do that we have to both pay attention to the pain and move without hurting the muscles worse. Sounds a bit boring, right? Bored is more important than we think….
I took the photograph at the Hoh Rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula Washington, in 2004. We were not bored.