Free Meditation for Pain Relief Lessons

I use Herbert Benson’s relaxation response as a meditation for pain relief. I think his method is similar to transcendental meditation. Learn how to adapt it to be used with migraines here in just a few easy steps.

Whether you choose to start a regular practice or just meditate before a migraine is up to you.

There have been several studies done now that show meditation reduces migraine attack rate of recurrence and severity.

So there appear to be specific benefits for us migraine sufferers from having a regular practice or just doing a meditation before a migraine attack starts.

I'm talking pain relief

Meditation for Pain Relief – The Basics

According to Dr. Herbert Benson, my hero, there are a few steps to consider before meditating and then there are some simple steps to follow.

Fundamentally your free meditation for pain relief lessons require you to silently repeat a mantra for 20 minutes. When we adapt this to migraine pain, the actual pain becomes the focus.

Make Sure You Have a Warm, Calm and Quiet Environment

It is best if you can choose a room or space that is warm and quiet with no distractions. For us migraineurs our dark bedroom is best. Obviously this is not always possible, like if you are at work for example. But try to find the best place where you can calm yourself and your mind easily. This will make focusing on your physical sensations and or repeating your word or phrase easier.

Choose Your Focus – a Sound, a Word, an Object or a Phrase

Meditation for Pain Relief Pose

Choosing a sound or a word like one, or peace for example, or a phrase will keep your mind from “wandering.”

You can repeat it out loud or silently.

Dr. Benson in his book The Relaxation Response tells us to use a constant stimulus to shift our mind from “logical, externally oriented thought” to internal awareness.

You can also gaze at a fixed object like a candle flame which is quite popular. However, this is not recommended for pre-migraine but its your choice, and I want to provide you with options. I like options. Focusing on just one thing is essential.

If you can bear it, you will also be using your pain as a focal point. The idea is to attempt to observe the pain from a distance.

Some say it is best to choose a word that is meaningless to you so that it does not stimulate your mind to have unnecessary thoughts. The word “one” is very useful for this purpose.

• Closed eyes for repetition

• Open eyes for gazing at your object

Always Start With Taking a Minute to Bring Awareness to Your Breath

Pay attention to your breath, following your normal rhythm is important. Breathe only through your nose. You will be saying your word on your exhale. You might find that once you pay attention to your breath your body will already start to relax.

Never force your breath. Don’t hold it in, and don’t force it out. Allow a natural rhythm.

Don’t Worry Be Happy Now

If you find that your mind is very busy don’t worry. Disregard your thoughts and come back to your word, phrase, or sound. Keep it simple, and just allow the thoughts to be there but repeat your mantra. “You should not worry about how well you are performing the technique” this might interfere with your meditation. There is no right or wrong way.

And of course, the intensity of your pain may dictate if you can continue to remain a passive neutral observer, or not.

Distractions Will Occur

The mind creates thoughts - that’s what its function is. If your thoughts intrude, just return to your breath and your mantra. When I say mantra, I mean the word, sound or phrase that you have chosen. So return to repeating your mantra, and let go of paying attention to the thoughts. Thoughts are expected, so just allow them.

Your pain will be distracting too. Physical and emotional pain around these dreadful migraines will intrude. Expect distractions.

Find a Comfortable Position

If you are practicing your meditation for pain relief in bed, then just make sure you are comfortable. Your head should be supported, and a cool cloth on your forehead, an ice pack on your neck and preferably a hot water bottle on your hands, should ease the pain.

If you are not in bed, then finding a comfortable sitting posture is very important to endure the whole 20 minutes of meditation required. Some people sit with crossed legs or kneel. You can sit in a chair as long as you can relax your muscle groups, and your spine is straight.

Some individuals lay down to meditate and this often leads to falling asleep. In our case, lying down and falling asleep is completely acceptable and actually desirable in order to help the migraine pass.

Meditation for Pain Relief Adapted for Migraines - The Steps

Meditation for Pain Relief

Here is my translation of Dr. Herbert Benson’s six steps to “elicit the relaxation response” aka our free meditation for pain relief lessons abridged for migraines of course:

1. Lie down or if you can’t lie down, sit in a comfortable position and quieten down.

2. Close your eyes and breathe in.

3. Bring your attention to your body parts and slowly relax all your muscles. Begin at your feet, ankles, calves, thighs, buttocks, abdomen, chest, ribs, spine, the whole torso, shoulders, neck, arms and hands, head and face. Roll your shoulders, head and neck gently if that feels right. Wiggle your toes.

Allow everything to relax. Feel the tension leaving your head and flowing towards your feet. You can say to yourself, "all the tension is now leaving my body out through my feet."

4. Become aware of your breath. Breathe only through your nose. As you exhale say your word silently to yourself, or out loud. I prefer silently, so I will instruct that. It’s your choice. For my migraine yesterday I choose the word freedom. I soon discovered that using the word freedom did not work as well as Om for me. So make sure you find a word that feels right.

So to begin - take a nice deep breath and
as you exhale say “Om” silently;
allow the inhale, and as you exhale again say “Om" again.

Using the phrase "migraine free" or "pain free" is not allowed. It is believed that your mind will fixate on that label and reinforce the images you already associate with those words. You can only hold the intention of releasing the migraine.

Following the Flow of Pain Sensations

5. Should you wish to focus on the pain, if it is not too intense, just try to observe it from a distance. Do not label it as pain - but try using the words flow or sensation. Map the size of the sensation, the exact location in your body, give it a color, a shape and a texture. And then start again.

By repeating the process you should be able to feel the changes in your pain. The pain may increase, come to a peak and then hopefully disperse. Leaving you migraine free. I did a repetitive meditation like this for over ten years and I could meditate the pain away in many attacks. You may need to do this several times a day, if the migraine returns, like mine did and do.

6. Continue to repeat your word on the exhale for 20 minutes. You may open your eyes if you need to check the time, however an alarm is not recommended. Your body will eventually learn to know when 20 minutes is up. It has its own internal clock. It is good to just let yourself fall asleep before a migraine.

For a regular practice it is best to just sit when you are finished and avoid rushing back to the tasks of daily life. Either way, it is recommended to sit just for a few minutes and allow your eyes to open and close until you are ready to stand up.

7. It is important that you just allow the process. There is no wrong and no right way to allow the process or meditate. Be gentle with yourself and your busy mind and what it tells you when your pain levels increase. If you can, “maintaining a passive attitude” is important to the success of your practice.

The Benefits Accumulate

The body should not take long to learn this relaxation process with regular practice. The rules change a little for migraines but the benefits will accumulate if you stick with it. It is recommended to practice twice every day, once before breakfast and before dinner is best. Do not meditate for two hours after a meal as your digestive function may interfere with the meditation.

Be Proactive With Your Migraines

This is one of the best ways, I feel, that we can be proactive with reducing the frequency and severity of our migraine attacks. Dr. Herbert Benson sure did millions a favor by studying TM for over 40 years and he provides us with the very basics that I consider free meditation for pain relief lessons.

I hope you enjoyed the Migraine Savvy version of meditation for pain relief. A very good friend of mine put me onto Dr. Benson's book years ago and she said exactly that - it's like having free lessons on transcendental meditation for pain relief and you can do it at home.

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To you finding relief xoxo

Book for Free Meditation for Pain Relief Lessons: Benson, H. M.D. (1975) The Relaxation Response. Harpers Collins Publishers: NY. P. 162-163 [Online], Available at:

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With this new information, what one thing can you do now to reduce your attacks?