Thanks to pain in my left shoulder, I have had the good fortune to experience semiweekly physical therapy sessions. Another opportunity to observe the mind's natural tendency to turn away from unpleasantness. Doing the arm band exercises, there is only so much 'I' can take before fleeing into thoughts about anything but the present moment. Of course, such mindlessness results in the obvious outcome of a mediocre workout, and subpar results for distressed shoulder. More subtle, is the sadness of yet another stretch of time not fully lived. Time, obliterated, wished away, and with it a disconnection from myself.
We are wired to resist unpleasantness, both the physical and mental kinds. And yet, life is but one string of unsatisfactory moments, some worse than others. Whether suffering from transient nature of good moment, or from just plain bad moment, the truth is, life sucks. And yet, we want to feel good, we would do anything to not feel pain, and to have pleasure instead. I am not even sure what's stronger, the avoidance of pain, or the pursuit of pleasure? Right there, in a nutshell, lies the human predicament.
Back to physical therapy . . . I have been practicing bringing mindful attention to my exercise routine. Making room for feeling all the body sensations, slowing down enough to give the muscles and tendons exactly what they need, and using that daily chunk of time to practice concentration. Doing 3 sets of 30 for each of the 7 prescribed exercises is a perfect opportunity to steady the mind. I also find physical pain to be such a great teacher, showing me the ways of my mind, and also inviting other possibilities, not inviting reactivity, practicing equanimity.
Mindfulness-based physical therapy, another venue to be explored for those in the field of physical therapy?