Feelings of Pain 1

Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu

Feelings of Pain 1

This morning there was a request for techniques on how to deal with physical pain while you meditate.

There are four steps in dealing with pain. The first is preventative. When you sit down to meditate, you probably know by now where pains tend to appear. Try to let the breath energy flow into that area even before the pain comes. Remember, however, that sometimes pain in one part of the body is caused by a lack of circulation in another part of the body. For instance, a pain in your knee may actually come from a lack of circulation in the middle of your back or in your face. When that’s the case, you have to let breath energy flow in the middle of the back or in the face if you want to prevent the pain in the knee. The relationships between circulation of breath energy and pain can be very unusual and unexpected. So, explore for a while. Try releasing any tension you can feel anywhere in the body. You’ll find that there may be one spot where, when you release the tension there, it will improve the energy flow in the area that you usually get the pain.

The second step, when pain has arisen, is not to focus on that spot. You might focus on the opposite side of the body or any spot where you can find that the breath energy is very comfortable. Stay in the comfortable spot and let the pain have the other spot. You do not have to get into the line of fire. The mind will be tempted to focus on the pain and deliver a long commentary on the pain, but you have to tell yourself not to believe a word of what it is saying. Keep reminding yourself that as long as you’re in a good spot, you’re not threatened by the pain. Ajaan Lee has a nice image for this technique. He says it s like getting a mango. If there s a rotten spot in the mango, do not eat the rotten spot. Let the worms have the rotten spot. You eat just the good spot.

This reflection by Ajaan Geoff is from the book, The Karma of Mindfulness, pp. 28-29.