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Break Through PainReview - Break Through Pain
A Step-by-Step Mindfulness Meditation Program for Transforming Chronic and Acute Pain
by Shinzen Young
Sounds True, 2005
Review by Diana Pederson
Apr 24th 2007 (Volume 11, Issue 17)

Shinzen Young is an interesting man. As a youth, he attended Japanese school after public school was closed for the day. This is a common practice among Japanese Americans. Because of his fascination with Japan and Buddhism, he studies this in school and ends up doing research in Japan. The surprising thing is that Shinzen grew up in a Jewish home.

Chapter one gives Young's own story of learning Buddhist meditation and using it to help him control chronic pain. He learns to sit in one position in a very stiff, upright position with his legs crossed. This doesn't help his back pain but a monk teaches him breath meditation which allows him to move his focus from his pain to something else for a brief time. It takes weeks or even months to learn to meditate without focusing on the pain. It takes several classes in meditation for him to learn this traditional practice among Buddhists. It should also be noted that most religions, including Christianity, have some practice of meditation. The difference seems to be that the Buddhists insist on particular physical positions while you meditate.

The next chapter discusses how to meditate. One of the goals is something called equanimity--defined as a relaxed state of the entire body. He talks about various sensations that go over your body as you learn to relax. As this happens, the pain causes less suffering.

Chapter three discusses how pain can cause suffering if you react to it improperly. The author claims that we develop resistance to pain. Suffering is a combination of the actual pain plus our body's resistance to it. The goal is to learn a different relationship with pain so that it doesn't become our main focus.

Learning to work with pain is the subject of the next chapter. I find a statement the author made in this chapter rather startling. He claims that medication will help us experience pain more fully and that it can contribute to our psychological and spiritual growth.

Fortunately, you can make a conceptual reframing that changes the meaning of time spent with pain. If Nature has give you so much pain that you cannot do anything else other than be with it, then there is a message here: you are l not expected to be doing anything else!  In other words, spending time--even long periods of time--just feeling pain is a legitimate calling in the eyes of God and Nature. Assuming that you are making at least some effort to purify and evolve consciousness by being with the pain in a skillful way, you are engaged in productive and meaningful work. [Page 42]

This author totally lost me at this point. He uses the rest of the book to introduce you to "guided meditations" and to share the experiences of people who have successfully used meditation to reduce or perhaps eliminate pain. A CD accompanies the book. You can use this CD to talk you through a sample guided meditation.

Recommendation

Guided meditations may work for Buddhists. Somehow, I don't believe this will become a common way to deal with pain. I just don't believe that the God I serve intended us to live in chronic pain as a way to relate to nature and Him more fully. The type of meditation described in this book just doesn't make sense to me even after reading it through a second and third time.  Therefore, I can't honestly recommend the book.

© 2007 Diana Pederson

Diana Pederson lives in Lansing, Michigan.


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