Using breath meditation to manage pain

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Pain is something that many people goes through in their life. Khun Mae often advise that breath meditation is an effective way to manage one’s pain. Breath in and visualize the breath moving all over the body.
Most of the advise given by Khun Mae came from her own personal experience in dealing with obstacles and problems. More than 10 years ago, while doing some repair works on the high wood panels near the ceiling of one of the kutis in her Lampang temple, she had a fall and she would have lost her life there and then. The pain was very severe beyond the description and she was alone. Slowly, she used her breath to regulate back her body’s movements.


Photo of Khun Mae taken in her Lampang temple in 29 May 2010 where she had worked for days to prepare for the event with almost no rest.

However the fall had caused her backbone to be dislocated. For more than 10 years, Khun Mae lived with the pain each day, not to mention that she continues to carry heavy items, carry cement, tiles, etc during temple building, cleaning and clearing weeds…. working for days and hours. She said each day she has pain and if there is a day where there is no pain, it would feel unusual.

With time, the condition had gotten worse as the damaged on her backbone (L3, L4 & L5) region started to cause very severe nerve impingement. The pain got very bad at night disturbing her sleep at night. Yet due to her busy schedule, she delayed her treatment for many years.

This year in 2015, she went for MRI and arranged to undergo operation on her back. The surgeons actually had based the needs of operation based on the MRI report. Somehow, the truth of her condition was not correctly reflected in the MRI report.

The surgeons had thought that it would be a simple operation and therefore had her on anesthesia for 2 hours. However when they opened her back up, they were shocked by the severity of her back problem. It was much more worse that what the report had indicated and it made the operation very risky….they knew it would take more than 2 hours and as the anesthesia went off, it would cause Khun Mae a very severe pain.

Several L shaped metal disks were inserted in her lower backbone.

After the operation, Khun Mae was in severe pain for few days. She regulated the pain using breath meditation, allowing the breath to travel around her body. She started to make herself walk after 3 days. She also practice sitting cross legged (usually after back operation one should not sit cross legged) but she did not want the entire area to stiffen resulting that for lifetime she cannot sit cross legged.

Note: The above does not constitute to any medical advice or suggestion but as an experience sharing. Khun Mae was able to manage an otherwise painful condition using simple breath meditation. Years of meditation made Khun Mae understand the inner workings of her body very well to know what are her limits.

Many people who came to visit Khun Mae had pains, sometimes physical, and sometimes emotional. Sometimes it is emotional that manifests into physical pain. When time permits, Khun Mae would listen to them, give some advice on how to overcome the issue and then would ask them to use breath to regulate their body. For those who have cancer, including the final stages which brought a lot of pain- she always advise them to use the breath to regulate the body as often medication cannot take all the pain away. One need not necessary to be seated on a cushion in a formal meditation style. Instead one just need to be conscious of the breath which have a soothing and calming effect on one’s mind as well.

The advice above is not meant to substitute medical treatment and care but meant to complement. And it helps to cope if the condition is chronic whereby there is no cure to the condition but only pain management.

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