October 27, 2009

Working with Pain

Pain is an intrinsic part of being born in a physical body, as the Buddha has taught. In reality, aging and sickness begin the moment we enter the world. Yet we are conditioned to ward off all pain. We are unwilling to allow the pain simply to happen...

Paradoxically, once we are willing to work with pain, we feel that it is not all bad. Pain is a riveting object of attention; to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, it concentrates the mind wonderfully. If we leave the breath and direct attention to whatever physical sensation is in the body, allowing ourselves to be present with whatever has arisen, the mind doesn’t tend to wander very much. If we are truly aware of the sensations, we find that pain can focus and calm the mind. There can be joy that arises with this concentration. We are not scattered. The mind is happily focused.

- Gavin Harrison, from “Working With Pain,” Tricycle, Winter 2002

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toner's picture

your system is really nice and useful information there I wish to congratulate and thank you success

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Anjali's picture

I have lived with physical pain for thirty years and have been practising meditation for six of these. It was not until I studied and practiced the Sattipatana Sutta through Breathworks that I can recognise alot of what Gareth speaks of. It is not so much that the pain experienced is ennobling as, the insight it gives you. I.E. that pain albeit that when you first experience feels like a solid entity, is actually when watched in meditation, a flux of different sensations. Therefore, not ony is pain insubstantial, but also impermanant. This does give asense of joy, of release, and equanimity....in time, and with continued pratcitce, becasue the Duhkha that one has felt up until now can therefoe aslo been seen as insubstantial. Based not on truth, but on fear (this pain is solid and will last for ever). One must be open to hold these realisations with the occurance of all the other human emotions and thoughts. I still get frustrated and angry, but I now I can also experience real joy and compassion ofr others, because I have started to truely feel compassion for this poor body of mine that I have dragged through oceans while scuba diving, and careers, trying to prove to the world that I am whole despite my imperfect body. I don;t need to that any more. I am whole, albeit not yet enlightened :) I feel very humbled by my experience of the Dharma since starting this closer self enquiry throught the Sattipatana Sutta over the last year. My meditation practice is rich and my sense of connection with 'others' is growing.

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[...] Tricycle » Working with Pain www.tricycle.com/blog/?p=1600 – view page – cached Pain is an intrinsic part of being born in a physical body, as the Buddha has taught. In reality, aging and sickness begin the moment we enter the world. Yet we are conditioned to ward off all pain.... (Read more)Pain is an intrinsic part of being born in a physical body, as the Buddha has taught. In reality, aging and sickness begin the moment we enter the world. Yet we are conditioned to ward off all pain. We are unwilling to allow the pain simply to happen… (Read less) — From the page [...]

Robert McGrath's picture

A Buddhist can try as hard as they like to see the redemptive power of pain; but any sane person would only look for it if they had absolutely no hope. Sure, adversity builds all sorts of understandings and indeed most religions I am aware of, and a good deal of “well” psychology understands that the world IS inherently full of suffering and that happiness comes in the paradoxical understanding and acceptance of this....its pretty simple stuff..... Ennobling???? .....unlikely.

Indeed a more useful antidote to pain is loosing myself in a good history story. Am fascinated by Tricycle's review of the book about the mad Russian nobleman trying to establish a perverted Buddhist monarchy in Mongolia after the Russian Revolution— a fascinating backwater of history I have no knowledge of. Gets me off my navel and back into teh world...