Along with listening to intuition, there is a different strategy and that's lovingkindness. It's especially helpful with chronic pain, but is important in acute situations, too. Whatever your situation, the lovingkindness approach never fails. It involves conscious softening. Releasing resistance and fear. Not forsaking the body. This is where you begin.

So often in medicine we have it backwards. We attempt to repair the body without consulting it. Pain has its own language, intelligence, and rhythm. Pain is absolutely alive. It will speak to you, not in the usual sense but on an intuitive level. My patient Meg is using this technique for chronic, inoperable back pain. She told me, "Whenever a dull ache begins to feel sharp, that's my body's way of telling me to slow down and also do yoga. If I listen, I can prevent the pain cycle from worsening."

To deal with your pain, first, open up communication. Odd as it may seem, use meditation to ask your pain for help. Healing is collaboration, an opportunity to learn from a sometimes demanding but most enlightened master. Approach your pain with deep respect-without hatred or blame or remorse. Pain can literally sound like a person living inside of you and using its own unique voice.

We each deal with pain differently. As a physician, there are some classic types of coping mechanisms I've seen that can work against the healing of pain. Pain can often become a metaphor for your life and beliefs. Type 1 is The Blamer, the person who blames herself for bringing on the pain, or blames someone else for causing it. Type 2 is the Victim, the person who says, "Why has God done this to me? This pain is tormenting me. I'm being punished for no reason." Type 3 is the Complainer. This person may be suffering terribly and seeks experts for help, but doesn't accept the pain as a messenger or a helper in some way. She lets everyone know her misery, a difficult dynamic for family and friends. Type 4 is The Stoic, the person who silently suffers, and doesn't reach out for help. Stoics often were never given permission in their families to express their feelings; they may feel "weak" or ashamed for showing vulnerability, so they try to push though pain.

In contrast to these types, what I'm suggesting is a new model for dealing with pain that can point the way toward wellness. In my model, harmonizing with pain and illness will relieve them, not make them worse. Also, see pain as a teacher with a message you can learn from. I know this goes against much of what we've been taught. Still, the fact remains that each of my patients who've trusted enough to explore this in therapy have experienced significant reduction in pain or improvement in an illness, even when all else has failed.

I never lose sight of how relentless chronic discomfort can be. I know personally the nagging pain and ongoing fatigue that can come from irritable bowel syndrome. If I don't eat well and get plenty of rest, a cycle of irritable bowel can be set off which can be debilitating. When the pain comes, I tune in, try to consider it a spiritual riddle containing layers of meaning. Sometimes the pain is saying, "This person is bad news. Get out of the situation," or sometimes it says, "Cancel all social engagements and rest." In the same way, I suggest you look to your body for answers.

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