Addressing and Working with Pain On and Off the Cushion

Fortunately, as of now, I haven’t had to work with physical pain much. I’m currently dealing more with blockages, which may or may not be blocking pain. It’s hard to tell until unblocked.

For several years, until my grandmother’s passing, she dealt with osteoporosis and the pain of her bones disintegrating with Fentanyl, a very strong pain killer.

It also seems a huge portion of pain is psychological, and other than merely physical pain, often going unaddressed.

A few folks have asked about how to address and work with pain both during meditation and in daily life. If pain is a persistent challenge please listen to these in-depth talks and meditations for pain; check out The Challenge of Pain by Bhikkhu Anālayo [pdf] and the translated talks Feeling of Pain and Investigating Pain by Venerable Acariya Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno

The following is a quick partial summary of points for investigating, perceiving and working with pain:

  • What is the attitude towards pain?
  • What is the default perception and response for pain?
  • What is the relationship with pain?
  • If the pain is gripping pretty much the entire experience, how might changing how might changing one’s relationship to and with the pain be of benefit?
  • Visualizing pain to change relationship to it
  • Pain is weakness leaving the body
  • Can you turn pain into a gift/opportunity/teacher?
  • Can pain be met with compassion instead of aversion?
  • Feel it to heal it
  • Feel into the pain in an ever-relaxing way
  • Soften around pain
  • It is like this now due to conditions and for a lawful reason. There no requirement to feel any certain way about pain
  • It is OK to be in pain; one is not less then or a failure for experiencing pain
  • Some say pain is trapped energy
  • What do I need (right now)?
  • Pain is not what we think it is
  • Name it to claim it. Label the pain to lessen its power. What kind of pain? Burning, throbbing, stinging, pulsing, stabbing?
  • What is the intensity level (on a scale of 1-10)?
  • How long does it last (at currently labeled intensity level)?
  • Zoom way in to see how pain is changing
  • Find/track its edges/boarders. Do these edges/boarders move?
  • Who’s (changing) pain is this?
  • This pain is not me, mine, nor am I made of it
  • Zoom way out and to see how it affects other areas of body and areas of life beyond the body and how other phenomena effect the pain
  • Breath into/out of the pain
  • “How can I serve you pain?” It is almost impossible to be in conflict while serving
  • Find pleasure or neutral places (within the pain and/or other body areas) and keep attention there. Then sweep back to pain to invite it to those pleasant and neutral areas and go back to the pleasurable or neutral places for awhile before repeating.
  • For enduring being with pain, learn to discern between merely reacting to unpleasant sensations from those sensations warning of potential bodily harm

At one time Venerable Anuruddha was staying near Sāvatthī in the Dark Forest. And he was sick, suffering, gravely ill. Then several mendicants went up to Venerable Anuruddha, and said to him:

“What meditation does Venerable Anuruddha practice so that physical pain doesn’t occupy his mind?”

“Reverends, I meditate with my mind firmly established in the four kinds of mindfulness meditation so that physical pain doesn’t occupy my mind. What four? I meditate observing an aspect of the body … feelings … mind … principles—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world. I meditate with my mind firmly established in these four kinds of mindfulness meditation so that physical pain doesn’t occupy my mind.”

Linked Discourses 52
1. In Private
10. Gravely Ill — Bāḷhagilānasutta

Published by josh dippold

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