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Thread: Zazen during surgery

  1. #1

    Zazen during surgery

    I have had a pacemaker implanted for many years but I am not self reliant on it. It is there because a genetic defect sometimes during stress can cause issues with my heart that the pacemaker takes care of. I found out a few days ago during a checkup that the battery had died and since they cannot be changed I was scheduled for surgery yesterday to have the old pacemaker removed and a new one implanted. I told the surgeon that I wanted to be awake for the procedure and that I did not want any sedation. He asked if I wanted a bullet to bite down on and I said no, I would do zazen instead. So he numbed the area on my chest where he was going to make the incision and I started. Since I couldn't sit cross legged and had to lay on the operating table I had to modify it slightly. Instead of just sitting I just laid. I noticed my breathing and tried to not think. There were a couple of times when I noticed pain or discomfort but was able to let it pass and return to zazen. More than that though it wasn't a whole lot different than doing zazen on my cushion. My mind would wander to things that had nothing to do with the surgery and I would let those thoughts drift away and return to not thinking. Every now and then the surgeon would ask if I was okay and I would respond "Great". One time when he asked how I was the nurse told him that I was meditating. After about 45 minutes he stitched up the incision and said "that's it, all done" and I stopped my zazen. I was ecstatic. I was not drugged up and I didn't have to spend the night in a hospital. In fact, since I hadn't had any sedation, I was driving myself home an hour later.
    I hope this doesn't sound like bragging because that's not why I'm relating this story. I just wanted to tell someone what zazen did for me and most of my family and friends wouldn't understand so thank you all for letting me tell it to you.

    Gassho,

    Tom

  2. #2
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    Wonderful I wonder if the doctor struck together two scalpels as an inkin bell .... I don't think I would have so much courage to ask something like that, but this is proof that everything (or almost everything) it's in the mind.

    Thank you for sharing

    Gassho
    ______________________________
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    P.S. Yup, I know, my English sucks

  3. #3
    Senior Member Ekai's Avatar
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    Wow, that's great! I admire you for your courage and dedication.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Gassho,
    Ekai

  4. #4
    Wow ... nice work Tom. As Ekai said, that takes a lot of courage.

    Gassho,
    Michael
    倫道 真現

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  5. #5
    Holy crap! You're a braver man than I!

    Gassho,
    Kaishin

  6. #6
    Amazing Tom. Thank you for sharing and well, being here!
    I have to admit I would not need the sedation either, once I saw the knife id be out cold ;D

    Deep bows and take good care!

    Shohei

  7. #7
    Wonderful story! I have "reclined" Zazen during a few minor medical and dental procedures, but nothing quite like that.

    The power of the mind!

    In Japan, by the way, there is a culturally different view of pain. The doctors use no, or significantly weaker, anesthesia during many procedures. The Japanese tend to just bite the bullet, but part of it is simply psychological I believe and a culture that values not complaining and a stiff upper lip. If you anticipate pain, you are more likely to feel it. Somehow our ancestors got through life without it until the 19th century ... although anesthesia really made complex surgery possible for the first time while diminishing the risk of shock.

    Wonderful! I will sit this week for your continued mending.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-13-2012 at 04:42 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  8. #8
    There is actually some medical research related to this ...

    =============================

    Zen meditation appears to reduce sensitivity to moderate pain when practiced by well-trained individuals, Canadian researchers report.

    "Previous studies had already shown that teaching patients with chronic pain to meditate seemed to help them, but no one had examined how these effects might come about," said study author Joshua A. Grant, a researcher in the department of physiology at the University of Montreal. "We reasoned that the best approach would be to study healthy people with a lot of meditation training already under their belts, because effects would presumably be strongest in them."

    "The first finding then is that the meditators are much less sensitive to heat pain," noted Grant. "We [also] found that this pain reduction in meditators was related to how many lifetime hours of practice they had accumulated, with more pain reduction in the more senior practitioners."

    Throughout the experiments, the researchers also found that meditators seem to breath much more slowly than non-meditators -- providing some of the first hard proof that the cardio-respiratory system could be the underlying mechanism by which meditation promotes pain control.

    Grant and his University of Montreal co-author, Dr. Pierre Rainville, report the findings in the January issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

    Grant and Rainville's study focused on the effects of Zen meditation.

    Thirteen Zen meditators, all of whom had already logged more than 1,000 hours of practice with the technique, were enrolled in the study. Between the spring and winter of 2006 the authors compared the practitioners' reactions to moderate pain to that of 13 men and women of similar age with no meditation or yoga background.

    Using high-tech thermal probes, the researchers exposed the left calf area of each participant to a series of painful and non-painful heated "stimulations" ranging from 37 C (neutral) to 43 C (warm and non-painful) to a maximum of 53 C (hot and moderately painful).

    During each session, participants were either instructed to keep their eyes closed and not fall asleep; to shut their eyes and focus their attention on the left leg stimulation; or to close their eyes, focus on the left leg, and try not to judge the stimulation but instead merely observe the sensation moment-to-moment.

    Based on self-reported pain levels, Grant and Rainville found that the last concentration exercise ... helped the meditators experience less pain, but had no impact on non-meditators.

    Non-meditators were also not helped when they were told to focus on the leg stimulation. In fact, both the intensity of their pain and pain "unpleasantness" went up by 15 percent and 21 percent, respectively. In contrast, meditators given the same instruction experienced no increase on either score.

    "I think this study gives credibility to the stories often heard about certain individuals sitting through painful medical or dental procedures, for example, without anesthetic, relying on hypnosis or highly focused concentration to get them through the pain," Grant said. "I'm not suggesting that if you practice Zen meditation you will never need a painkiller. But slowly, through studies like this and those on hypnosis, we're understanding that we have perhaps a lot more control over aspects of our experience than we previously believed. Having this attitude of optimism is important, both to cultivate one's own potential and to generate interest and support in understanding it scientifically."

    Dr. Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, described the study as "tremendously important" and as "another brick in the foundation" supporting mind-body approaches to pain control.

    "Stress is responsible for upwards of 60 to 90 percent of visits to doctors," said Benson, who is also associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "So, to point to meditation as a means to evoke a relaxation response that could enable the mind to control pain isn't that far of a leap."

    He noted that prior studies have suggested that various meditative techniques help release pain-relieving endorphins. "So this study is a nice addition to already existing literature," Benson said. "And it suggests that what we have here is a relatively effective inexpensive approach that could help treat conditions that are being poorly treated by drugs and surgeries."

    http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org...71/1/106.short
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-13-2012 at 04:45 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  9. #9
    Friends of Treeleaf Dokan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shohei View Post
    I have to admit I would not need the sedation either, once I saw the knife id be out cold ;D
    I literally LOL'd...

    I couldn't do it...I am perfectly aware that I'm a weak and feeble man with no self mastery nor tolerance for pain. I've come to terms with it and have grown to actually be proud of it. In fact, just yesterday I was complaining to my wife how my tooth hurt because of clogged sinuses. This was closely followed by heavy dosages of ibuprofen and allergy meds.

    I've read about such feats with child birth...but again, I think I'd ask for a epidural and morphine drip as soon as I found out I was pregnant...even as the father.

    Gassho,

    Dokan
    Last edited by Dokan; 07-13-2012 at 04:22 PM.
    We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.
    ~Anas Nin

  10. #10
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Quite an amazing story...maybe I should keep doing zazen! Take two rounds of zazen and you needn't call me in the morning.

    Gassho,
    Dosho
    Ordained Priest -In-Training & Shuso (Head Seat) for November - Ango 2014
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Please take what I say with a grain of salt, especially in matters of the Dharma!

  11. #11
    TomB...what an inspiring story! Thanks for sharing and thanks for Jundo on the research references! I'm a sissy and always go for "Rx pain management", but this does highlight how I may have more control than what I think.

    Gassho,
    Jisnen/BrianW

  12. #12
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Tom,

    You, sir, have all my admiration and respect. Hope you recover completely in no time.

    All metta for you.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  13. #13
    Senior Member Ekai's Avatar
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    LOL! Everyone's comments are really making me laugh today!!

    Gassho,
    Ekai

  14. #14
    Friend of Treeleaf Daido's Avatar
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    Im with Dokan. I take the pain meds times two and bow to the guy with invented them.

    Daido
    Jiken Daido - Unsui at Treeleaf's Brother Sangha, the Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage.

    Do not just accept what I say. Decide for yourself if it rings true for you

  15. #15
    Member BobSpour's Avatar
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    Interesting thread and well done...

    I have a particular interest in this subject as I am involved in NLP and Ericksonian Hypnotherapy on a professional level. It's something I got into because of my involvement in the martial arts and my desire to help people manage their mental states. I do it through zazen myself but found that many students were not prepared to put the time in and needed a 'quick fix' I have used self hypnosis to 'distract' me whilst I had fillings and have trained a couple of individuals who used NLP during surgical operations. It always amazes me just how powerful and easy it is for us to change our perceptions. Something I found out early on in my zazen practice back in the 70's.
    Note the use of the word distract. That's all it is really and as buddhists we strive to notice these states and let them go. But not be distracted! Or is that not, not noticing distraction? Aaaaargh! I have noticed that most people I meet are in some state of hypnosis or other and the toughest thing is to get them out of it...That for me is what Zazen is about.

    Thanks for the distraction Lol!
    Gassho
    Bob

  16. #16
    Senior Member ZenHarmony's Avatar
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    Quite an interesting article, Jundo, thanks for sharing!

    As someone who has had to deal with chronic pain most of my life, I discovered long ago that fighting the pain only made it worse, intensifying it and making it last longer than necessary. Breathing through the pain, and accepting it as it is, always proved to make it so much easier to deal with, so much so that I used that method to give birth to two out of three of my children with no drugs and no vocalizing. I was even able to coach my 17 year old daughter so that she was able to have my beautiful granddaughter without drugs.

    Gassho,

    Lisa

  17. #17
    That's pretty damned amazing Tom, but pain meds are incredible. lol

  18. #18
    Tom, That took some courage. Never having had surgery I was wondering - was the pain just on the surface or was it deep inside?
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  19. #19
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Bows to you.

    Yes. Gret example.


    I still prefer no pain. And here in Japan, just what it is. Painful treatement. Ok too.


    Gassho


    T.
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  20. #20
    That's amazing Tom - you must be very focussed.

    I manage fillings with NLP - but a tooth extraction did not work out OK!

    Dokan - I have probs big time with Sinusitus - keep taking the meds

    Gassho

    Willow

  21. #21
    Senior Member galen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TomB View Post
    I have had a pacemaker implanted for many years but I am not self reliant on it. It is there because a genetic defect sometimes during stress can cause issues with my heart that the pacemaker takes care of. I found out a few days ago during a checkup that the battery had died and since they cannot be changed I was scheduled for surgery yesterday to have the old pacemaker removed and a new one implanted. I told the surgeon that I wanted to be awake for the procedure and that I did not want any sedation. He asked if I wanted a bullet to bite down on and I said no, I would do zazen instead. So he numbed the area on my chest where he was going to make the incision and I started. Since I couldn't sit cross legged and had to lay on the operating table I had to modify it slightly. Instead of just sitting I just laid. I noticed my breathing and tried to not think. There were a couple of times when I noticed pain or discomfort but was able to let it pass and return to zazen. More than that though it wasn't a whole lot different than doing zazen on my cushion. My mind would wander to things that had nothing to do with the surgery and I would let those thoughts drift away and return to not thinking. Every now and then the surgeon would ask if I was okay and I would respond "Great". One time when he asked how I was the nurse told him that I was meditating. After about 45 minutes he stitched up the incision and said "that's it, all done" and I stopped my zazen. I was ecstatic. I was not drugged up and I didn't have to spend the night in a hospital. In fact, since I hadn't had any sedation, I was driving myself home an hour later.
    I hope this doesn't sound like bragging because that's not why I'm relating this story. I just wanted to tell someone what zazen did for me and most of my family and friends wouldn't understand so thank you all for letting me tell it to you.

    Gassho,

    Tom
    Tom, that was a WOWzer!

    As has been said here, it seems that was a great example, you exemplified, of mind over matter. Seemingly taking a break from the phenomenal world of relativity, to join through breathing, into your ultimate nature of what Is and we all Are. Thank you!

    If we remember, as Jundo points out in his referencing, Wick in his intro told us about the time he was still playing scientist and did the cold water experiment 40 feet down in near freezing temps without a dry or wet suit, through breathing and deep focus of 'being' cold, while others could only stay about 20 minutes (thats unreal in of itself) he staid for an hour until they told him to surface. Like Tom here, it seems the only way that would be possible is to slip out of the world of relativity into a higher realm of our highest true nature, after all its only relative.

    Tom, this absolutely does not seem like bragging on any level, purely sharing this non-phenomena, phenomena. Well done, great example of sliding to the world, non-world of our ultimate true nature!



    galen
    Nothing Special

  22. #22
    Senior Member galen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TomB View Post
    I have had a pacemaker implanted for many years but I am not self reliant on it. It is there because a genetic defect sometimes during stress can cause issues with my heart that the pacemaker takes care of. I found out a few days ago during a checkup that the battery had died and since they cannot be changed I was scheduled for surgery yesterday to have the old pacemaker removed and a new one implanted. I told the surgeon that I wanted to be awake for the procedure and that I did not want any sedation. He asked if I wanted a bullet to bite down on and I said no, I would do zazen instead. So he numbed the area on my chest where he was going to make the incision and I started. Since I couldn't sit cross legged and had to lay on the operating table I had to modify it slightly. Instead of just sitting I just laid. I noticed my breathing and tried to not think. There were a couple of times when I noticed pain or discomfort but was able to let it pass and return to zazen. More than that though it wasn't a whole lot different than doing zazen on my cushion. My mind would wander to things that had nothing to do with the surgery and I would let those thoughts drift away and return to not thinking. Every now and then the surgeon would ask if I was okay and I would respond "Great". One time when he asked how I was the nurse told him that I was meditating. After about 45 minutes he stitched up the incision and said "that's it, all done" and I stopped my zazen. I was ecstatic. I was not drugged up and I didn't have to spend the night in a hospital. In fact, since I hadn't had any sedation, I was driving myself home an hour later.
    I hope this doesn't sound like bragging because that's not why I'm relating this story. I just wanted to tell someone what zazen did for me and most of my family and friends wouldn't understand so thank you all for letting me tell it to you.

    Gassho,

    Tom
    Tom, that was a WOWzer!

    As has been said here, it seems that was a great example, you exemplified, of mind over matter. Seemingly taking a break from the phenomenal world of relativity, to join through breathing, into your ultimate nature of what Is and we all Are. Thank you!

    If we remember, as Jundo points out in his referencing, Wick in his intro told us about the time he was still playing scientist and did the cold water experiment 40 feet down in near freezing temps without a dry or wet suit, through breathing and deep focus of 'being' cold, while others could only stay about 20 minutes (thats unreal in and of itself) he stayed for an hour until they told him to surface. Like Tom here, it seems the only way that would be possible is to slip out of the world of relativity into a higher realm of our highest true nature, after all its only relative .

    Tom, this absolutely does not seem like bragging on any level, purely sharing this non-phenomena, phenomena. Well done, great example of sliding to the world, non-world of our ultimate true nature!



    galen
    Nothing Special

  23. #23
    Hey Tom.
    i find this interesting since i am a nurse and i actually work in the operation room so i see and take part in operations everyday.
    it is amazing how much our mind can control our body. mind over matter i guess.
    but what is most important in your story is the amount of how much our perception determines our reality.

    i see it many times in the O.R. with local anesthesia some people dont feel anything you only feel the perception of something being done to you.
    while others scream in pain from the perceived pain the y convince themselves they feel even though the nerves have been blocked with the anesthesia agent.

    Gassho, Dojin.
    I gained nothing at all from supreme enlightenment, and for that very reason it is called supreme enlightenment
    - the Buddha

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