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Meditating Away Pain (Part 2)

2008 September 6

Pleasant, Neutral and Unpleasant Feelings

Last week we began by learning and practising the simple “counting the breaths” method of meditation. Once you are used to doing this we can move onto using a “focus of meditation” other than breathing. There’s nothing essentially new here: We’re just moving from breathing as the focus, to something else.

I’m going to suggest using this image of a rose. But you can use pretty much anything as a meditation focus. I have chosen a rose at it is likely to be familiar and unthreatening to you.

backlit yellow rose

backlit rose

In this exercise, I want to try to teach you to break the rose apart in your mind while meditating. You can use the image of the rose itself or if you can, picture it clearly use its image in your mind’s eye.

As you focus on the rose, begin with the image as a whole. You may notice its soft, yellow hue. Or you may notice more its soft texture. It doesn’t matter what as the experience is your own. Take some time to drink in the image.

Now, I want you to move in and focus on single aspects of the image. You may notice the gradation from orange to green as you go from the centre to the edge. Or you may notice the change from distinct to soft texture. Again, it doesn’t matter what. What you notice is that the rose is made up of pieces. It has different hues, different brightnesses, different shapes and different textures. You may notice associations come up as time goes by. A colour may remind you of something else. You may remember a time as a child in your grandmother’s garden. Or you may think of a friend’s dress colour. Again, it doesn’t matter what. Acknowledge the association and return to the image.

Because of the subject, most of the aspects may feel pleasant or at least not unpleasant. They have pleasant or neutral feelings associated with them. With each aspect as you change focus and associations pop into your mind, take a moment to explore the feeling.

It is possible that an unpleasant feeling arises at some point. For this exercise, though not necessary, it is positive. At first it may be surprising that a pleasant image can have an unpleasant aspect. But this is true of many possible meditation focuses. They each may produce pleasant, neutral and unpleasant feelings. Each aspect of a focus may have an associated pleasant, neutral or unpleasant feeling.

It is the realisation of this that is the important part of this exercise.

You should now find other meditation objects to use as focuses. They don’t have to be visual images or things. Music or other sounds can serve as focuses. Textures can do so too. What I suggest you do is experiment for a few days or weeks with a range of different focuses. In each meditation, be aware of the aspects – the pieces – that make up the focus. Music can have different instruments, as well as changing pitch and loudness. A texture can have imperfections. And with each aspect, be aware of any pleasant, neutral or unpleasant feeling that arises. Don’t be scared to try a mildly unpleasant focus, like the white noise from an untuned radio, or a rough texture. Finding neutral or even pleasant feelings hidden within is a key part of meditating away pain we will come to in part three.

In this way, you will get used to finding the aspects that make up meditation focuses. And you will get used to finding the pleasant, neutral and unpleasant feelings that are associated with those aspects.


The image of the rose taken from flickr under the BY: commons licence. The image, “Backlit yellow rose”, is by audreyjm529: http://flickr.com/photos/audreyjm529/166459689/

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