Sunday, July 09, 2006

Working skillfully with pain

Yesterday I brought you a passage from The Fine Arts of Relaxation, Concentration and Meditation by Joel and Michelle Levey on the subject of pain. I want to share another paragraph from the same chapter today:
Traditionally, different meditation techniques have been used effectively to cope with or master pain. Though concentrative techniques can be effective at masking the pain, the emphasis of applying meditation to working with pain is that of directly investigating and understanding it. Upon careful examination of the field of sensations that we label "pain," we find that it is not a thing or unchanging entity. Rather pain is a nonentity, a dynamic field of sensations and feelings that changes with each moment and with each state of mind. The courage to face and understand our own suffering is the first step to working effectively with our own pain. It is also the first step in learning to open our hearts and minds enabling us to empathize and compassionately relate to the sufferings of others. By understanding our own wish to be free from our suffering, we begin to develop greater compassion, wishing that others might be free as well.

Although the above process is easier to practice with physical pain, it is also very effective with mental or emotional pain. Simply being a meditator does not mean we will not feel pain when something terrible happens. But as meditators we have skills for relating with our pain in a way that will reduce our suffering and bring us insight.

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