During a three-day outdoor painting class last week, I used The ICE Method to end one person’s 30 years of fibromyalgia pain, help an artist who had fallen on his shoulder the night before to become pain free and able to paint again, and help a small group session five painters find calm about their painting and critiques. They were so pleased I was invited to share The ICE Method with the full group of 18 painters.  And there was still plenty of time for exploring the Rocky Mountains of the Bitteroot Valley in Montana.


Fibromyalgia – Friday night

ICE’ing at the Bitterroot Artists workshop

“Oh, I have fibromyalgia,” says the woman as we we settle into the vacation home this group of artists has rented for the workshop.  We’d been introducing ourselves. I’d mentioned that I help people with emotional and physical pain, and I do a lot of work with people with fibromyalgia.

My wife Anne is taking the workshop.  I’m along for the hiking and to help with the cooking.  After we return from the workshop Meet-and-Greet, I sit down with  the woman with fibromyalgia.  “I’ve had fibromyalgia for thirty years,” she tells me. “It hurts worst in my feet, right under my arches.  The pain was so bad for awhile I almost ended up in a wheelchair.”

Forty-five minutes later the pain has reduced from a five to a two.  She’s turning away from the session to thoughts about packing up her gear for the painting class that starts in the morning.  I ask her to try a couple more moments with The ICE Method, but the calm space is gone.  Level two pain is as low as it goes tonight – she’s thrilled, but I feel like we’re just around the corner from pain-free.

Artists Anxiety – Friday night

As we conclude the session I join the others at the table and they are curious about ICE.  “Does it work for artist anxiety?” one of the women jokes.  I laugh, but my answer is, “Maybe.”

If you’re not an artist you may be surprised to know that many artists feel a lot of anxiety about putting their soul on a canvas and then sharing it in public. The feeling is often intensified during workshops when the instructors are critiquing their work.

Thirty minutes of ICE’ing, back and forth between the calm space and the emotions that come up about sharing their art, each member of the group reports feeling calm and relaxed even as they envision the instructor standing behind them making comments while they paint. we’ll get to test tomorrow.

Testing – Saturday

Sketching, Painting, and ICE in the Bitterroot

The woman with fibromyalgia wakes up with no pain in her feet.  She’s beaming.  The artists head off to their designated painting location.  My friend and I spend the day hiking with our dogs.  In the evening, the artists return with tales of calm, how they found the calm space of ICE between the posts of their painting tripods, in the space under bridges and between distant trees.  They’ve spoken with their instructor and I’m invited to talk about ICE to the full group of eighteen students after the potluck dinner

It’s the first time presenting ICE to a group of this size..  The presentation seems to get across for most of the artists, but I’m aware of people are processing the ICE information mentally, rather than experiencing it emotionally as they learn the process through their real life issue.  There’s lots of room for me to grow in making ICE accessible to larger groups.

Fibro revisited – Saturday night

I’m currently involved in a study of using ICE with fifty people who have fibromyalgia.  13 of the first 20 have left initial sessions pain free.  Followup has been difficult, so I make the most of three full days with this person who has 30 yeasr experience with fibro.  Even though she’s still pain free by evening, I explain the common history for people with fibromyalgia – early life traumas, and often another trauma later in life when pain arrives and does not leave.  “Oh, yes,” she smiles, “I’m a ‘classic’ case.”

We end up the last ones awake in the house, a full two-hour session.  Both of us are weary and laughing about our tiredness.  “I’m okay with continuing,” she responds when I ask,  “I know this is doing me good.”

Emotion, physical location, memory.  I don’t even hear the details of the memories, she just tells me an age or a general event.  Back and forth, back and forth,  emotions, physical sensations, memories.  Calm peptides replacing stress peptides. By the end, she’s calm about all the pieces of her life history that she brought back to memory during this session.  And a worry about future jaw surgery is almost calm, just a little twitch remaining in her jaw that doesn’t go away no matter how many times we go back an forth.  When I check in at breakfast on Sunday morning, the jaw has become peaceful too.

After this session, I’m fairly confident she’ll have no more fibromyalgia pain,  and I’m very confident that should anything return we can address it with another session of ICE.

I need ICE – Sunday

“I needed this experience,” the teacher says.  He’s talking about using the ICE method, I’m sure, not about falling over his dog last night and slamming his shoulder on the ground.  He woke up with less then 6″ of motion in his painting arm.  We do  a bit of ICE over the phone early in the morning, and then I show up at the painting location where we spend another fifteen minutes.  Back and forth between the calm space and the emotions and physical pain of the shoulder.  Calm peptides exchange the emotions of anger and fear that glued together the memory of the fall.  In a bit he’s calm about the memory of the fall.  Then he’s calm about the week ahead that he’d been stressing over.

This calmness I expect now whenever I use ICE with people. It comes with the territory.  And I know this calm becomes the instruction for all the cells of the body, and I know they turn to internal healing as soon as they quit having to react to external stresses.  But when his full range of motions returns, and when he reports zero pain as he rotates his arm through a full swing,  I return to wonder and wonderment.  How is pain processed in the body.  How come mechanical damage can be experienced in one moment as the pain we expect and a few moments later as pain free?

That woman with fibro.  She’s right there with the other artists this morning.  It had been a third-mile trek to the painting location.  “I’ve never been able to make this trip before,” she tells me. “I could never have made a walk, and now, even after the hike, my feet don’t hurt a bit.”

Wondering and wonderment.  As I turn more deeply into this life with ICE, I feel the Bitterroot artists wekend was a real gift to me – a full-on experience of the scope and depth to which ICE applies – from artists anxiety to long term chronic pain to a physical injury.

Life goes better with ICE