As I write now in 2013 a search on the Arthritis Foundation webiste for "meditation" yields 2480 results! It seems "meditation" is now one of its most frequent treatment recommendations.
|Photo by Ian Burt on Flickr.com
Tthe Arthritis Foundation is a conservative, well-respected organization that can be quite hesitant to endorse alternative healing modalities. It is a powerful testimony to the power of meditation that this organization gives meditation such strong endorsements.
Quoting from the still accurate 2004 article:
“Your doctor may have already recommended adding meditation to your treatment regimen. These days, meditation is taught in many clinics, hospitals and HMOs, and endorsed by universities as prestigious as Harvard and Stanford. In just a few decades, it has gone from a counter-culture oddity to an accepted therapy for many chronic conditions. It is even being paid for by some cost-conscious insurers because it requires no special equipment or clothing, doesn't involve drugs, surgery or other pricey treatment and, according to some studies, it cuts down on office visits.”
Back when I first read that paragraph I found myself breathing a sigh of relief. It is important to me that the best medical care be available to people with arthritis. In my opinion, one of the most powerful and life-altering therapies available is meditation training. I am glad that doctors are finally recommending it.
Without a meditation practice, I would probably still be using an electric cart to get around instead of enjoying walking, riding my bicycle and working out in a martial arts dojo.
The Arthritis Foundation article also emphasizes the broad utility of meditation skills: '’Once you have learned it, no one can take it away from you. You don't have to come back and get another treatment,’ says Betsy B. Singh, PhD, dean of research at the Southern California University of Health Sciences in Whittier and author of studies on meditation and fibromyalgia. ‘These skills can help people begin to control their arthritis instead of having disease control them,' Singh explains.’”
I whole-heartedly agree. It is difficult to name any other therapy besides meditation that has only positive side effects. I would also add, as the Buddhists say, “meditation is good at the beginning, the middle, and the end.” This means that you benefit, no matter what stage of healing that you are in.
Pain as a Sacred Meditation?
What if you are in severe pain? What if you have no way to make this pain stop? What can you do then?
Early on in my arthritis I frequently experienced pain so intense it was difficult not to pass out. When I tried to walk more than a few steps my body would go into shock. Sometimes I would pass out. Sometimes I was able to stay conscious.
Those moments of consciousness were a major turning point in my life.
It wasn’t until I found Shinzen Young, who is now my primary meditation teacher, that I begin to understand what was happening to me. I have studied with him for many years.
Here is what he has to say about the matter:
“All over the world in traditional cultures, men and women voluntarily subject themselves to pain as a vehicle for radical spiritual transformation. The Sundances and sweat lodges of native North America are examples of this. As cultures become more complex, the shamanic ordeals of the tribe evolve into systems of ascetic and contemplative practice.
But what about involuntary pain? In theory, this too could be turned into a purifying ceremony or a sacred meditation. In practice it is exceedingly difficult to do this unless you are fortunate enough to encounter a competent guide in this area.
In this area, the qualifications for a competent guide are severe. The guide must be a person who has successfully used non-consensual pain to transcend their limited identity and unite with the source.
Furthermore, to be a competent guide, one must have the creative communication skills to clearly convey to others how they could also do this.
Such people are very rare. Barbara Allan is one of them. And her work, will be a godsend to those in pain who are ready for radical growth.”
Director of the Vipassana Support Institute
Ways We Can Help You:
Barbara Allan's 6 CD guided meditation set for people with arthritis can guide through your own meditation sessions.
New to Meditating? →Let us teach you how