Working with Pain & Anxiety

Updated: May 22, 2020

One unit in the Path of Freedom curriculum shares how participants can use mindfulness to grapple with physical and emotional pain. A prisoner in a recent class on pain entered complaining about a fresh injustice by prison administration. Though the event had passed, it was still causing him distress. This unit teaches that we get anxious when our thoughts get stuck on thoughts about perceived threats. With the support of the facilitator, the group applied the mindfulness tools presented in the unit to this handy, real life issue. Participants explored how mindfulness can help us plant ourselves firmly in the now, seeing clearly what is and isn’t happening and calmly choosing the best course of action.

In discussion following movement practices, prisoners shared the realization that practice would be stuck and frustrating without cultivating a relationship of acceptance and openness toward themselves. Meditation instruction emphasized bringing spaciousness to the current experience within the environment. Through guided meditation and discussion, the facilitator shared the concept that even though pain is inevitable, we can cultivate the ability to avoid adding unnecessary suffering to it.

Through these exercises and reflecting on their experience in the POF so far, prisoners expressed various shifts. One of the guys remarked on how he was granted parole recently and was complimented by the board for real change. Others expressed less attraction to drama, an ability to take things less personally, relaxing into greater genuineness and less of a sense of having to prove oneself.

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