Meditating Away Pain (Part 3)

2008 September 13

Discarding the Unpleasant Aspect of Pain

By now you have learnt to relax and focus in meditation. You have also learnt how to focus on each aspect of a meditation object. And you heave learnt how to find pleasant, neutral and unpleasant feelings associated with those aspects. In doing this, you are ready to use pain itself as a focus of meditation.

Don’t worry if you haven’t been able to do this. You may just need more practice. There are also many other meditation methods, any one of which may help you. In the coming months I will try to find these and add them to the “Migraine” page I will add to this blog. Please look out for the new tab soon.

If you have been able to find the pleasant, neutral and unpleasant aspects in meditation focuses, we can continue.

To begin with, I suggest focussing on milder pain like a mild headache. When doing this, you are looking for aspects of the pain that are not unpleasant. This may seem strange at first, since you may be used to seeing pain as wholly unpleasant. But my own experience shows me that this is not so. I have not yet found any meditation focus that doesn’t have a range of aspects. Even migraine pain I have found to have neutral aspects. For me, I found a cold sensation that was not unpleasant. The exact aspect may be different for you, and may be different for each kind of pain. But in each case, you simply apply this meditation method to find a neutral aspect.

It is possible that you may find a pleasant aspect in pain! I suggest choosing a neutral one in the method to follow; but I haven’t tried focussing on a pleasant aspect. (The reason is one of “attachment”. In Buddhism, attachment is the cause of discomfort and becoming emotionally attached to a pleasant aspect of pain may have unforeseen consequences. For example, it’s logically possible that we may come to want the pleasant aspect and so cause more frequent pain. Or, when it is missing, we may focus more negatively on the unpleasant aspect of pain that stays. For these reasons, I suggest seeking out a neutral aspect of pain to focus on.)

As before, this may take time and practice. If you eventually decide you cannot find a neutral aspect and focus on it, then you may still find other forms of meditation helpful.

Once you have found the neutral aspect of pain, focus on it. If you become fully aware of the neutral aspect, you may automatically find the unpleasant aspect(s) seem lessened. This is good! But even if not, you can apply one more method to help lessen even severe pain. This is to imagine taking hold of the unpleasant aspect(s) and setting them down beside you. Again, this may take some practice and may not work for you. I can only teach you the techniques I have learnt. (Another technique I’ve heard of is to imagine the pain travelling up your head – or into your head – and then out of its top.)

If you can practise the technique of discarding pain and focussing on a neutral aspect, this will help you manage pain. You can also use this method to manage other unpleasant experiences. As you develop a habit of focussed meditation, recognising pleasant, neutral and unpleasant aspects, and focussing on chosen aspects, you take control over your experiences. There’s nothing mystical or “new age” here. You’re simply finding out how your mind works and using this to take control of unpleasant experiences.

If you do find these methods useful, please let others know so they can benefit too. I would also like to hear from you if this has helped, or if other forms of meditation have helped you manage pain. I can then include these.

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