Alternative Pain Management — We’ve been asked to take the project for the Injured Workers bigger than local.
Tao te Jing 22.
Learn how to stand still
if you want to go places.
Get on your knees
if you want to stand tall.
If you want wisdom,
empty your mind.
If you want the world,
renounce your riches.
Push yourself until you’re exhausted,
and then you’ll find your strength.
You can go far
if you don’t have anything to carry.
The more you acquire,
the less you can really see.
A Master takes this to heart
and sets an example
for everybody else.
She doesn’t show off
so people take notice.
She’s not out to prove anything
so people take her at her word.
She doesn’t brag about herself
but people know what she’s done.
She hasn’t got an agenda
but people know what she can do.
She’s not out to get anybody
so nobody can get in her way.
“Learn how to stand still
if you want to go places.”
That’s not as crazy as it sounds.
Get in touch with Tao,
and you’ll see what I mean.
So, you likely know about the Injured Workers Groups Darbella and I have been running.
I’ve also mentioned our “under development” website, which follows the same pattern. There will be at least 8 weeks of daily videos, falling under seven themes:
and 3 categories of “Zen living.”
We’ve been asked to take the project for the Injured Workers bigger than local, and we’re struggling with “how.” Ontario, after all, is a big place (it takes 2–3 days of driving to go from where we live (South Central) to the Western exit — providing service Province-wide is going to be interesting.
I was talking with a Health Team Leader today, about running a group in her facility, and she asked for a 1‑page summary of our proposal. I realized that I didn’t have one, and was also going to write the blog article — so why not do both at the same time?
This article, then, will be about how we see life “working.” We’ll be talking a bit about Injured Workers, and also explaining how the same method works for all of us.
For the blog, I’ll reference another section of the Tao te Jing, the one above.
In 2008, Darbella and I did a lecture / demonstration about Alternative Pain Management. Some of the senior staff of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) were there, including the CEO, who has been very supportive.) We devised an 8‑hour Workshop, complete with a DVD-Book package.
Then a year and a bit went by. In the Fall of 2009, we were asked to do a pilot project. We designed an 8‑week programme, including a 4 hour Introductory Workshop, to help the participants develop an Alternative approach to managing their pain. That group ended in March of 2010, and we’re establishing more groups to continue the trials.
Here’s a typical comment from a participant in the first group:
[This group was] surprisingly helpful. I went in with an open mind, (“I’ll try anything once”), but I really didn’t expect much out of it. My source of pain is nerve related, so I can not be sure if my pain has actually decreased or it’s just the natural fluctuations. However, my suffering has definitely been reduced by a surprising amount. Somehow, Wayne and Dar have managed to alter my entire outlook on life in eight short weeks. Absolutely amazing, considering that I have always seen myself as having a reasonably good handle on myself and my life. I think this is mostly due to the open and flexible nature of how they teach. Everyone’s pain has been caused by separate injuries and a rigid course would help some I am sure but could also hurt others if their individual needs were not acknowledged. Allowing the participants “to “pick and choose” how much,how far to go and even what exercises to use makes this course uniquely flexible and appropriate for everyone,of all ages regardless of what the pain source is. This course has been possibly the best thing that has happened in my world since the day I hurt myself at work 2 years ago.
The above Tao te Jing quote from Ron Hogan’s version of the Tao te Jing points to the “plot” behind our group, as well as our view of how life actually “works.” We call this part Zen Living, but you could just as easily call it “living according to the Tao.”
Notice that almost all of this section presents “conundrums.” How does standing still get you somewhere? How does kneeling make you tall? What about wisdom and an empty mind?
Our approach to the members of our first group was to create an environment where each could explore their injuries and their lives from an entirely new perspective. Most had experienced such Western approaches as drugs, physiotherapy, and some had gone “under the knife.” They were in the group because they were not happy with the results.
Now, we value Western approaches, and we also think that looking at other, less intuitive approaches provides an opportunity to shift things around. In other words, we think it is essential to explore such things as:
- how our minds contribute to our suffering
- how pain is inevitable for all of us, and how to make suffering optional
- how simple stretching and Qi Gong leads to more flexibility (both physical and mental) and creates a deeper flow of energy
- how a mindful meditation practice provides the ground and core of a shift in all aspects of living
- how “Zen based” living helps us to drop blaming, waiting for rescue, and allows us to come into the full presence of this moment
Needless to say, we’ve been writing about this approach here for a decade plus.
While all of this seems logical and simple, implementing it can be daunting. You see in in the Tao quote — logic, “right and wrong,” duality—all get stood on their heads. You have to be willing to totally open yourself to a counter-societal approach to every aspect of living. If you do, you suddenly discover an internal experience that is both deep and rich.
Everything circles around the establishment of a mindful meditation practice.
For starters, our participants agree to “sit” at least 20 minutes per day, for 56 days. There are decades of research (Google Jon Kabat-Zinn) demonstrating the utter effectiveness of this regimen for developing calmness, insight, and physically, lessening of pain symptoms.
Our approach is to teach the participants to “sit” properly, and to learn to focus their attention either on their breath, or onto the current experience (mindfulness.)
Over the 8 weeks, we help them to fine tune and customize their experience, and to “unpack” what emerges for them.
This is Darbella’s “wheelhouse.” She’s been “playing” at Qi Gong since 1990.
This group work has served as an inspiration for deepening her practice. She teaches this easy-to-learn practice with kindness and compassion.
Qi Gong is also counter-intuitive. Not much seems to be going on, and yet there is this subtle shift in both the flow of energy and one’s ability to “move your body.” In a sense, the movements teach our body how to function best, and we thereby eliminate wasted movement and improve bodily efficiency.
We see the same thing with bodywork. Pressure leads to pain, leads to expression, leads to pleasure. Once the blockages and baggage are out of the way, we begin to sense our natural “Tao state.” You get out of your own way, and all you experience is the free flow of your own, core energy.
This is an interesting one, primarily because we teach these stretches for one reason — to help participants gain flexibility so they can “sit” with little or no pain.
We have designed the stretches to be easy to do — many can be done sitting in a chair.
The interesting part is that our gentle approach (as Darbella says, “Push to 80% or so, and hold there”) flies in the face of the “shake it ’til you break it, “No pain, no gain” approach to “fitness espoused by Health Club Amazons.
The stretches open body, mind, and spirit. Participants are amazed at what happens when they work hard at 80% — parts that have been frozen for years thaw out.
We really don’t teach Zen. We teach what we’ve called, for decades, “self-responsibility.”
Our personal approach to this is “Zen-ny” in that Zen prizes simplicity, directness, and moment-by-moment focus.
So, we explore the idea that we have to start from where we are.
Most of our participants want to be where they were before their injury, and we simply do not have access to the time machine! So, we help them to experience what happens when you crave what is not available to you—your body tightens up, and your pain increases.
We help our clients to gently let go of clinging to hope that time will go backwards, of clinging to hope of a rescue (that someone or some thing (a pill, an operation, etc.) will ride in on a white horse,) and to let go of clinging to their belief that things are bad now and destined to get worse.
We help them to “get there,” not through force of our “wisdom,” (we have none!) but through daily experience — sitting, stretching and doing Qi Gong. Over the course of 8 weeks, they learn by doing and observing the only thing that matters — their own lives and bodies.
This is what it means in the Tao — to go places by standing (or sitting 😉 ) still. We shift through the mindful application of stillness, studied and careful movement, and full presence with what is happening right now. We open ourselves — our minds, bodies, and spirits — to the moment by moment flow of experience, all without judgement or resistance.
By doing this, we find ourselves, as one of my clients puts it, “All flowy, all the time.”
This 8‑week programme simply works. Of course, there will be a range of responses — based upon the injury, lifestyle, and commitment of each person. Our experience is that amazing things happen in 56 days. We just have no idea in advance what the result will look like.
Of course, our goal, through our new website, is to make this process available to all who are interested, and you don’t have to be physically injured to implement it. You might be noticing that your life is stalled, or meaningless, or boring. You might notice that your relationships are stale. You might notice a longing to fulfill your path of purpose, and want us to walk with you.
I’m hoping the videos will be done and the site will be open this Summer. Amazing how much work 56 videos are. We’re about 1⁄3 of the way, and we’ll keep you posted!
We invite you to think about whether this 8‑week Group is something you wish to implement in your area of Ontario. If it is, make contact, and we’ll share more details.