It occurred to me this morning that mindfulness and guided imagery have alot in common. I have talked about mindfulness several times, but I don't think I ever talked about guided imagery here. Mindfulness is the passive awareness of your surroundings. You let your senses take in the information, without reacting to it or judging it. Practicing this can help you cope with pain. Once you adjust to this new way of being in your environment, you can observe your pain in the same way. Observe what the pan does and how it feels, without reacting to it or judging it. The pain becomes just another sensation your body is experiencing, (This takes practice, and the pain may even seem worse initially, because you are focusing on it.)
Guided imagery also focuses on sensations, but instead of focusing on the real sensations in your environment, you focus on what sensations you would experience in another environment. It is a way to escape from your current situation for awhile, be it pain or stress or just boredom. There are tapes and CD's you can get that talk you through what you would experience, hence , the term 'guided'. Belleruth Naperstek did a series of guided imagery tapes, individually designed for specific ailments. You can do it on your own. Some people are naturally better at visualizing alternate environments, but most people can do it with practice.
Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Imagine any setting where you feel safe and comfortable. Examples are a beach, a garden, or your grandmothers kitchen when she was baking your favorite cookies. Here is a scenario to try. Read it over first, then get comfortable and close your eyes. Take your time as you focus on each of your senses, imagining what you would see, smell, etc. If you want, you can record yourself slowly reading this out loud , then play it back.
You are standing on a beach. The air is warm, with a slight breeze. It ruffles your hair, which tickles your cheek. Under your feet, the sand is soft and warm. The sun on your back is hot, but comfortable. You look around you. The sand is freckled with shells. Ahead of you is the edge of the surf, You slowly walk over there, where the sand is cooler, and more solid from the water. You stand there, and let the water roll over your toes, and roll back out, over your toes and back out again. The water goes on and on, as far as you can see. Above, the sky is a soft blue, with fluffy white clouds scattered about. You hear the waves breaking over and over, and in the distance, a child shouts with glee. You take in a deep breath. The air is filled with a salty tang, combined with coconut suntan lotion. The coconut reminds you of the lemonade you have in your hand. You take a long, cold, sour/sweet sip. You stay a t the beach awhile longer, observing , watching, listening.