Aching Bones, Expanding Mind

TTouch® Practitioner-In-Training, TTouch thyself! This was the message from Linda Tellington-Jones as I moaned in a undignified way into her ear through the telephone.

To be honest, I was so disoriented after my accident that it did not even occur to me that I might help myself in any way at all until my friends and family insisted that I go to the doctor, which I waited three days to do. Apparently horse people can be quite stubborn about brushing off the effects of falls.

My doctor told me a joke of sorts. Doc: “How do you know when a horseback rider has really been hurt in a fall?” Kim: “I don’t know, doctor. Can I have that shot now?” Doc: “When the horseback rider doesn’t have a pulse.” Kim: “Why, what do you mean, doctor?” Doc: “If a horseback rider has a pulse, he doesn’t consider himself to be hurt.” That’s why we never see ’em in here. They only get the ‘hurt’ ones at the county morgue. OK, bend over, this might sting a little.” I guess there’s a lesson in this for me. It wasn’t a matter of playing tough, but of staying present with my body. We all have a considerable power to affect our own bodies’ responses to all kinds of stimuli. Since I’ve been moving gently about my home trying to shake off the effects of this fall, I’ve become aware of all the ways I’m actually hurt.

You know how it goes. You get hurt, you go to the doctor and show him all the ouchy spots, then you come home and discover all sorts of things you didn’t realize were wrong. Now what? Well, here’s what for me. I chose to start with expanding my awareness. First, awareness of pain. Second, awareness of my reactions to pain. Third, awareness of how I can effect change in both. Awareness of pain seems pretty basic at first, doesn’t it? It hurts, for crying out loud! However, a close, mindful observation of pain reveals not only what hurts and how, but subtle gradations of pain, mere discomfort, and both referred pain and phantom referred pain (things you thought hurt but really don’t).

In the Vipassana* Buddhist tradition, a lot of time is dedicated to meditations on the body. During short meditations, I observe my body carefully, acknowledge how it feels, and endeavor to accept those sensations fully. Avoidance and aversion to those feelings can cause us so much trouble in life. For example, our habits of stress avoidance (smoking, overeating, etc.) can be traced to aversion to stress or low stress tolerance, a failure to accept how we feel.

As a “novice mindful person,” I don’t always succeed at staying present with my body. But I’m trying. One of the ways I develop this practice is through touch. In my very limited experience with TTouch®, I begin to see the connection between sensation and awareness. Now for the connection between the awareness of pain and the reaction to it. It was pretty obvious at first: I was senseless. But as I had an inner “feel around,” I began to notice that I was really angry with myself about my pain. The same old tape that plays in all the minds of middle aged riders in the world began: “What are you thinking, riding like that? Riding a young horse? Going fast? Why does it hurt so badly: Just a little fall, you wimp!” Not positive, I know.

Self-preservation in humans plays this tape on a constant loop. Even my family got into the game, suggesting that I am too old and too out of shape to be doing this. They are all right, and they are all wrong. Once the decision to ride has been made, it’s my mindfulness and skillful decision making that will keep me safe and provide for the enjoyment I seek. So back to the awareness of my reaction to pain. “OK, I hurt. I don’t like that I hurt.” Who does? I need to be present with this reaction, and work it through to the end. This is where effecting the change comes in. Accept the accident, accept the pain and my anger about it, but by golly, do something about it! You can’t massage yourself. Engaging the muscles necessary to massage yourself creates more tension, making a vicious circle of tension and pain.

TTouch® is an obvious solution because it requires little pressure. The benefits of using little pressure are twofold: (1) no stress on opposing structures, and (2) it doesn’t hurt to do it on a fresh injury like massage would. Using very light pressure, a #1, in TTouch terms, I first tried Chimp TTouch on my ribs. When it didn’t hurt, I moved to Clouded Leopard. A few circles, then a rest. A few circles more, then a rest. Later I added a slushy ziplock bag of ice and water, wrapped in a cloth, and did the circles through that. Lovely! Tomorrow I will add Abalone TTouch. At Linda’s suggestion, I added a little “snail tail” to the end of my circles: Picture the face of a clock. If I start with my fingers and move my skin clockwise around the circle of the clock starting at 6:00, going all the way around to 6:00 again, then to around 9:00, I’ve done the standard TTouch®. How to do the Tellington TTouch® (For more information on how to do the TTouch®, visit Adding the “snail tail” involves reversing the direction of the circle back to 6:00. Somehow, it provides extra relief. I imagine that a slow lift and release will also feel really good! I’m glad that I took Linda’s suggestion to give it a whirl. In my efforts to stay present with my painful situation, I was able to relieve the trauma to my cells as well. Read more about my experience with injury and healing in This post *Vipassana (Pali) To see clearly; insight meditation; the simple and direct practice of moment-to-moment mindfulness. Through careful and sustained observation, we experience for ourselves the ever-changing flow of the mind/body process. This awareness leads us to accept more fully the pleasure and pain, fear and joy, sadness and happiness that life inevitably brings. As insight deepens, we develop greater equanimity and peace in the face of change, and wisdom and compassion increasingly become the guiding principles of our lives. The Buddha first taught vipassana over 2,500 years ago. The various methods of this practice have been well preserved in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism.

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