Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 175 – Christiane Wolf, MD, PhD

For episode 174 of the Metta Hour, Sharon speaks with physician, meditation teacher, and author, Christiane Wolfe, MD, PhD.

For episode 175 of the Metta Hour, Sharon welcomes Christiane Wolf, MD, Ph.D., for a conversation about chronic pain.

Christiane Wolf is a physician, meditation teacher, and author. She is the author of the May 2021 release, Outsmart Your Pain: Mindfulness and Self-Compassion to Help You Leave Chronic Pain Behind, and is a senior teacher at InsightLA in Los Angeles. She is also the lead consultant and teacher trainer for the US Department of Veteran Affairs National Mindfulness Facilitator Training.

In this conversation, Christiane shares her background in meditation and what inspired her to teach. Sharon and Christiane talk about how working with physical pain can be a template for working with emotional pain and some of the cultural conditioning that can make chronic pain more difficult. Christiane discusses the difference between accepting and acknowledging pain and the role that grief has to play with it. She also shares some of her modes of working with pain through mindfulness and self-compassion. The episode concludes with Christiane leading a short guided meditation.

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Finding Meditation // Acute & Chronic Pain

Welcoming mindfulness and insight teacher, author, and physician, Christiane Wolf,MD, PhD, to the Metta Hour Podcast, Sharon invites her to share what brought her to the path of meditation. Christiane describes meeting Buddhist sangha whom helped point the way to Ajahn Cha’s London monastery; propelling her to become a meditation teacher (with a little push from Trudy Goodman). From here, she dives into the experiences which inspired her to apply mindfulness and self-compassion to overcome chronic pain.

“Acute pain is basically just a protective mechanism in your system; you step on a thorn, your brain goes, ‘Take your foot off that thorn.’ There’s usually not a story. But chronic pain tends to be over-protective— This is what I call the pain story. When we’re experience a flare-up, we’re not just experience the pain of this moment, but immediately also experience the baggage of the past.” – Christiane Wolf, MD, PhD

Sharon & dear friend Trudy Goodman share on meditation, vulnerability, & practice, on Ep. 146 of the Metta Hour
Outsmart the Pain Story // Relating to Trauma (15:30)

Diving into themes from her new book, Outsmart Your Pain: Mindfulness and Self-Compassion to Help You Leave Chronic Pain Behind, Christiane explores how we can outsmart the past-laden “pain story” that snowballs into deepening chronic pain. From here, they uncover chronic pain as a multifaceted bio-psycho-social phenomena connected to our entire world.

“One definition of chronic pain is multi-faceted phenomena. One term that we’re using: it’s a bio-psycho-social phenomena. That means your entire body, your entire physiology, your entire psyche, your entire emotional system, your entire world, the world that you live in, all of that effects your pain levels. Which is overwhelming on one hand, but helpful on the other hand because those are things we can work with.” – Christiane Wolf, MD, PhD 

Ram Dev (Dale Borglum) elucidates how pain is mandatory, but suffering is option, on Ep. 36 of Healing at the Edge
Tools for Working With Pain // Self-Compassion (32:00)

Through this interconnected and nuanced lens of managing pain, Sharon asks Christiane to open her proverbial toolbox of mindfulness and self-compassion practices for individual to start working with their pain. Explaining how to use mindful awareness to zoom-in and zoom-out, and embodied self-compassion to tap into our mammalian care system, Christiane offers playful and loving shifts of perspective to lighten the load.

“Chronic pain keeps you in a chronic stress loop… Self compassion helps to counterbalance that stress. It taps into our mammalian care system that helps us to feel soothed, connected, and more calm.” – Christiane Wolf, MD, PhD.

Tap into a space-creating self-compassion guided meditation practice, on Ep. 26 of Healing at the Edge
Guided Meditation Practice (44:00)

To close the podcast, Sharon invites Christiane to lead a guided meditation practice around embodied acceptance and mindful self-compassion.

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