• My walk with Buddhism and pain management

    I was recently invited to the opening of the Okanagan Buddhist Cultural Centre (Chùa Tây Trúc Kelowna) [They are working on their website]. It was a wonderful experience, which reminded me of my experiences with Buddhism and how it has helped me.

    A long time ago (November 1, 1991) a car hit my car at a high rate of speed and after that I was not the same.

    A 18 year old boy decided to go out drinking and on the way home he was going very fast in a dense neighborhood with no headlights on. His car hit mine and he actually skidded by his own house.

    What followed was years of pain and rehabilitation, the end of the story is someone helped me get well (Cindy) and it radically changed the direction of my life to one of helping others get well, hence the career in health and wellness.

    The first year of rehab is mostly a blur to pain, anger and time. By the second year I was taking a wheelbarrow of pain medications and not having my best life ever.

    Somewhere in the second to third year I saw on the poster board of a clinic “Buddhist mediation for pain”.

    Telling the Abbot how I attended the church as a child. His question was “Do you think they would approve of what we have done?” I assured him they would.

    I had heard of Buddhism from my Martial arts training. I thought it was the monks in Jackie Chan movies flying through the air kicking the crap out of everyone. Mediation I had no idea but I had a firm relationship with pain. So I went to the introductory session. I have a interesting story a bit later in this article about what happened there.

    I am not a Buddhist, while I have meditated for a long time I don’t pretend to know much about Buddhism. Aside from one concept, practice.

    The most influential meditation teacher I have had and continue to follow her teachings, which is to sit and meditate, is Cherri Huber. In my opinion, that lady is on a different level than most people. She has a bunch of resources books, radio show, meditation center. She has helped me in a lot of ways and I thank her and her Sangha (Buddhist monastic community).

    The Center’s bell. 300kg. The center in Edmonton is 1000kg!

    In my LIMITED experience with Buddhism, it’s silent sitting, silent meditating, eating in silence, walking in silence, experiencing in silence. But they do explain things sometimes.

    One of my favorite Cherri stories is a retreat where she offered by saying many of the participants likely have more knowledge of Buddhism than her. She knew more about practice than theory. The practice of sitting on the cushion and meditating and getting acquainted with the voices in the mind.

    And the single most important thing I ever learned from her was the only tool to use on those voices or anything else is compassion. And that is very challenging. But I work on it.

    What happened at the Buddhist mediation for pain class? The teacher looked like a normal person and said stuff that I thought was completely crazy.

    If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear the noise of the fall, does it make any noise? No.
    Without a witness “it” does not exist.
    Inside of us is a duality, one that experiences and one that witnesses.
    *okay, so?
    When 100% of you experiences your pain there is no one left to witness the pain and there will be no pain.

    At that point I figured I’d punch him in the face a few times and see how that theory played out. However discretion won the day and I set out to fully experience the sensations in my body (pain).

    It did not go well and then one day it worked! Easily one of the top 10 craziest experiences of my life. I just had no pain. It’s a long story but I can ONLY speak of my experience, it worked for me. I had periods without any pain. For people who have experienced 24 hour a day searing pain, you understand.

    I have been a lay-student of ‘Compassionate Self-Awareness’ ever since.

    A month ago I received an invitation from Okanagan Buddhist Cultural Centre to attend their opening. To my surprise they have taken over and re-habilitated the former Anglican Church. Which is were our family attended when I was a kid!

    The monks opening the center.

    The building had closed and fallen in to great disrepair, was slated for demolition and with massive effort a diverse group of people from all over Western Canada and the world saved the building and transformed it into a beautiful Cultural Centre.

    Six of us went and we had NO IDEA what we were in for. We drove by and saw some people and then 6 large tour busses pulled up. There was likely 800-1000 people there! It was fantastic.

    The building and grounds are beautiful. The hospitality of the group was gracious, welcoming, open, caring and they made a lovely lunch.

    I understand they are doing mediations on Sundays and at other times you can go and meditate on your own. I think everyone has seen the western scientific studies talking the benefits of mediation. Here, Here, Here or Here.

    I personally don’t see Buddhism as a Religion, but more a way of being. That being the practice of Compassion to our own suffering.

    I wish them all the very best.

    Be Well,
    Ward Willison
    Kelowna Acupuncture & Other Natural Therapies