Chronic pain management with mindfulness courses


Chronic pain can be one of the most heart-breaking experiences in a life – seemingly leaving us with very few options of how to live with any joy or ease. Many of the initial patients that came to the first MBSR courses with Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the 1980s were people suffering from chronic pain.

Physical pain is the response of the body and the nervous system to a range of stimuli that are perceived as noxious, damaging, or dangerous. 

There are three dimensions to pain: the physical or sensory component; the emotional, or affective component - how we feel about the sensation; and the cognitive component - the meaning we attribute to our pain. The normal human response to the challenge of ongoing pain is to try to problem-solve with lots of thinking. This doesn't work when the problem is in the body. Ruminating thought processes actually trigger the danger response causing more pain.

Mindfulness offers a way to pay attention to what is happening in the body-mind - here and now. 

When an attitude of approach and curiosity is brought to the investigation, new ways of seeing the situation arise with a more accepting relationship to pain. There is less struggle and with less struggle there is a calming of the stress response, balancing of hormones and immune factors and an improved brain environment for new connections to form.


Come and explore what the eight week MBSR course can offer you.

We love giving discounts to Health Care card holders and others in genuine financial difficulty. To keep the books balanced, we appreciate you paying the full fee if you can afford it!

Course locations

Please either select a location from the dropdown or enter a location in the field to see if we have a course available.

Mondays 6.30pm - 9:00pm
The Buddhist Library
90 Church Street, Camperdown
Bondi Junction (Night)
Tuesdays 6.30pm - 9:00pm
Loft and Earth
70 Bronte Rd, Bondi Junction
Bondi Junction (Day)
Wednesday 10:00am - 12:30pm
Loft and Earth
70 Bronte Rd, Bondi Junction
Thursdays 6.30pm - 9:00pm
139 Artarmon Rd, Artarmon
Northern Beaches
Mondays 6.30pm - 9:00pm
Mona Vale Surf Life Saving Club
Surfview Road, Mona Vale
Armadale (Day)
Tuesdays 10.00am - 12:30pm
Chi Flow Yoga  
Suite 3A 727 High St, Armadale
Moonee Ponds (Night)
Wednesdays 6.30pm - 9:00pm
Moonee Ponds Mind Body Health
23 Gladstone St, Moonee Ponds
Hawthorn (Night)
Thursday 6:30pm - 9:00pm
Melbourne Centre for Mindfulness
16 Trinity Place, East Melbourne

How does mindfulness help with chronic pain?

Mindfulness offers a switch from thinking to sensing, with a tuning into the fine sensations of the body. Noticing sensations during the practices of body scan meditation, sitting meditation and mindful movement can help to shift patterns of emotional reactivity. Structural changes occur in the brain in regions responsible for attention and emotional regulatory processes, memory, self-referential processing, empathy, self-compassion and perspective taking (Holzel, B. K. et al., 2011a).

More flexible connections in the brain occur so there is less getting stuck in automatic patterns of reverberating pain and worrying thoughts (Kerr et al 2013). This offers a new perspective with space for appreciation of beauty, engagement in creative pursuits and personal empowerment.


Why would someone with pain choose to observe it finely?


It’s a good question.   Its does sound quite counter-intuitive to ask someone to inhibit their natural reaction to get away from pain.

However when we turn away from feeling our present moment physical and emotional pain we also turn away from truly feeling our full range of sensory and emotional experiences. The present moment is the space of seeing the colours of the sunrise, feeling the gentle warmth of the sun on your skin, hearing the symphony of birdsong. It is the experiencing of peace and joy.

It is the learning about personal patterns that may trigger or exacerbate the pain. It is the seeing of pain as a medley of shifting moment to moment sensations rather than being the rigid truth. It is the place of forming an accepting and compassionate relationship to oneself. Not being able to access the richness, the beauty and the full potential that life has to offer - that is cruel.

Mindfulness is certainly not an ‘easy’ path to follow but for many it’s a worthwhile journey.


Does distraction and medication have a place in looking after my pain?

Mindfulness training can give us more stability of mind and insight to really tune in to what is working best and to put us more at the helm of our choices so that we have more options and freedom.   The best practice for your pain is what helps over time, and distraction and medication are methods that can be used skilfully alongside a mindfulness practice.



What People Are Saying

I have learnt a lot about myself through the MBSR course. Coming from a place of feeling very disconnected to myself, I now feel I am engaged and listening to what I need, which then has allowed me to handle what life has to offer in a positive way.

Anonymous, 2018

Since doing your course (Living with Wisdom and Compassion) my major transformation has been in my daily work as a family doctor. Instead of being the best doctor I can so that patients will admire me and appreciate me I am aware that I am regularly “putting myself in my patients shoes.” I want their lives to be better and their suffering to diminish. Whether that is through my doctoring or something not related to me is not relevant.



Ingrid (GP), 2018

Understanding mindfulness has changed my life.



Lee-Anne , 2018

It was great to be able to explore the strength of compassion, both internally and externally, through Living with Wisdom and Compassion. This course builds on what MBSR began. While it had its challenging moments, I came away from it feeling stress-relief thanks to my heart softening yet strengthening. And from the ability to see that even though we are all unique individuals, and we may express ourselves in wildly different ways, we all have the same needs. The better I can get at understanding those needs the more effective I can be in helping myself and others. I highly recommend this course to everyone.

Lisa, 2018

Bravo Ingrid Jolley and Openground! Thank you for your soothing and strengthening MBSR course. I’m feeling grounded, curious and hopeful about the future. I have the tools I need to lead an authentic, fulfilling life. 


Roz , 2018