Meditation is often touted as a panacea for all manner of ailments, from chronic pain to anxiety, stress and even depression.
Like most sensible people, I’d always taken such sweeping claims with a large pinch of salt. However, five years ago I learned the power of meditation for myself after an accident left me critically injured and in constant pain.
A freak gust of wind caught me off-guard as I was paragliding over the Cotswolds. One moment my paraglider was flying normally, the next its wing had collapsed, sending me tumbling into the hillside 30ft below.
I was struck with the most agonising pain imaginable. The bone in the lower half of my right leg had been driven up through my knee and into my thigh. I could see the outline of my fractured shin bone sticking through the cloth of my jeans. I went into shock and my body was racked with violent uncontrollable spasms. As I lay on the hillside, I remembered a form of meditation I’d been taught in the sixth form of my comprehensive school in Neston, Cheshire, as a way of tackling exam nerves.
Over the years I’d used it to deal with the usual stresses and strains of daily life, but never in times of physical pain. But I knew that meditation (and self-hypnosis) had been used for pain relief and, as I lay on the hillside, in sheer desperation I tried them both. I forced myself to breathe slowly and deeply, to focus on the sensations the breath made as it flowed in and out. I pictured myself in a beautiful garden and imagined myself inhaling its peaceful and tranquil air.