I thought I’d share the story of how I began to understand what somatic tracking is and how it can help with pain.
I few years ago I went on a 5-day meditation retreat. I really wanted to “succeed” at meditating, so I was really intense about it. I made myself go to all of the sessions even though they were really long and I didn’t have a lot meditation experience. A couple days in, my neck started to hurt when I meditated. It started getting so bad that within a minute of sitting down to meditate, my neck was hurting. I’d force myself to sit through a 45 minute session, trying to push through the pain, feeling like I must be doing something wrong, and getting afraid that I’d never be able to be a meditator because of this neck pain.
Even after the retreat, every time I sat down to meditate I’d start noticing pain in my neck (and sometimes in other parts of my body). I still had this sense that I “should” meditate but whenever I tried to meditate it left me feeling trapped.
Honestly, I started to think that me and meditation would never work out.
It was only when someone introduced me to somatic tracking that I understood how much my approach to meditation was reinforcing my pain.
Somatic tracking is about being mindful to bodily sensations while reinforcing messages of safety.
Before, I would try to “power through” and ignore my pain (while in the back of my mind, getting frustrated that the pain was still there, and getting afraid that it would never go away). Once I learned how to do somatic tracking, I had an alternative to pushing through the pain, to trying to ignore it and getting afraid of it. I could pay attention to it, acknowledge that it was there, and at the same time, remind myself again and again that I was ok. That the pain didn’t mean anything was broken in my body, that I was safe.
(In this regard, learning the neuroscience of pain was also super important. I needed to learn the science to understand that pain doesn’t necessarily equal damage, and that pain can be unlearned.)
I needed the framework for somatic tracking to understand that there is a better alternative to denying, ignoring, pushing through pain - that instead I can acknowledge and soothe my pain by using a lens of safety. To this day when I meditate I use the mantra “I’m safe.”
I would love to hear other people’s experience with somatic tracking, and if/ when it clicked for you.