Facing Pain and Aging Mindfully

On Tuesday, March 13th, I will have hip replacement surgery. The surgeon predicts it will take about three weeks before I can drive, two-three months to heal fully.


So, I am declaring myself on vacation. I feel better approaching surgery as a vacation then as a dreaded time of suffering. I realize it’s important, in difficult times especially, to be nice to myself. For the next few weeks or more, instead of feeling an obligation to publish a blog or story each week, or do any business-type activities, I will do it only when it feels right. I have a blog prepared for March 21st (for the online magazine, Open Thought Vortex), but before or after that—who knows. I will most probably miss writing, miss you as an audience, so I don’t know how long my “vacation” will last. It rarely lasts long.


Despite the joy of a vacation, I am not looking forward to this. I have been through similar surgeries before. I already have a new knee and hip and had hand and wrist surgery last June. And, as with the previous surgeries, I became sort of used to the pain—sort of. It is hard to believe I really need to do this. I can get around and do almost everything—as long as I’m careful.


I find this interesting. The pain was diagnosed a year and a half ago, and I put off surgery. In the end of January, just five weeks ago or so, I had a new x-ray. The surgeon said the hip is now bone against bone, causing my whole body to strain to compensate; I couldn’t put off the surgery any longer. Once I heard that, the hip became even more painful for a few days.


I also realize that I feel more vulnerable this time because of the political situation. Much of this nation feels constantly under threat, so it’s no wonder that a surgery would just add to the dread.


When I was recovering from the wrist surgery, I used a mindful approach to pain management, which has also been helpful with my hip. I thought of pain as an opportunity to better understand how my mind and body works. I am allergic to most of the usual pain medications, and had to rely only on Motrin and Tylenol, so I had a rich field of study. When pain arose, I breathed it in—if I could. I noticed whatever was there for me—how the beliefs and expectations I held influenced the sensations I felt. My response to the pain influenced how much I suffered from it. When I let go of the thoughts and images, and focused on the breath, the pain sensations moved to the periphery of awareness, and lessened in strength. Without resistance, pain decreased. It became one sensation among others. My response went from flight-fight-freeze to something a bit more open, more relaxed. I hope to do that again after this surgery.


I have also accumulated a few good movies and books to enjoy. And I am forever grateful that I still have good health insurance. On Tuesday, please wish for me a good result, a healing. Thank you and may you be well.


*Many Buddhist teachers write about how to face pain, or face whatever. Pema ChodronShinzen Young, and Jon Kabat-Zinn are three authors whose wonderful books I can recommend.

**My friend Eileen Ain recommended Peggy Huddleston’s Relaxation/Healing CD.

Leave a Reply



  1. Lisa Kiernan

    Hugs & prayers for a short vacation Ira

    • Dear Lisa:
      Thank you. Wish the vacation was in Japan, Kyoto, or the beach in Bali, but I guess I can take the beach in my living room. I wish you the best hugs, too.

  2. Elaine Mansfield

    I’m holding you and your hip in my heart, Ira. May the pain be gentle and the healing swift. I’ll miss your writing, but I’m going on a vacation myself where I’ll be in the mountains of the southwest with little or no internet connection. Sounds like good medicine to me.

    • Dear Elaine:
      Thank you. Enjoy YOUR vacation and medicine. The southwest sounds lovely.

  3. Esther

    No point in making any plan other than to take care of yourself as you find necessary. Two hip replacements and a scar revision, many other surgeries, tell me there is no rushing healing..it happens in it’s own time on it’s own terms. The pain medications only made matters worse for me so, breathing through the pain with patience. I will keep you in my thoughts for comfort and healing.

    • Thanks Esther. Narcotics are devastating to me, so breathing through pain is a beautiful option

  4. Susan Scott

    All good wishes for this Ira. Rest well post op –

  5. Judith

    I am thinking of you, dear Ira, and hoping for a successful surgery and a full recovery. May the positive energy you are receiving from your friends and family help you along the way. I am sending mine. Be well!

    • Dear Judith:
      What you said must be true. When I got home today, the sun was shining off the snow lighting up my neighbors there to help me get through the snow to the house. Great moment for me.

  6. Alicia Hirschhorn

    Having had a knee replacement in December I am quite interested in the absence of a long time pain and the difference in the healing pain I see that I am perceiving in my 71st year.Fluids all day…and letting the old suppression of pain turn me around .I have a weird illness called hyperparathyroidism,I have had many surgeries so I feel I am learning another language.Silence can sometimes heal as well as anything.I wonder what it is that will show me an elder poet’s perception of her new lessons and how to share them.

    • I am sorry about all the surgeries. I’ve had two this year. Yes–silence. Finding a silence in myself helps me find what to write, find what’s genuine.

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