The only good about suffering
is that it reminds us
that it is good to rise above it.
A recurring problem for many beginner meditators (and those who practise chanting, which is essentially a meditative practice too) is that of physical pain, especially for those who practise seated crossed-legged. (A chair can be used though, for cases where sitting on the floor proves too difficult.) Aches in the legs can be so serious that not only do they make it agonising to sit long, they can be a terrible source of distraction from the actual meditation, as one fidgets indefinitely. The following are two seemingly opposite yet equally effective remedies for dissolving pain to share. Unrelenting mindfulness and determination is needed though – at least enough of them, until the pain subsides. Ironically, to overcome pain either way is also practice of meditation – to transform the ‘enemy’ of pain into an ally for training calmness, concentration and clarity of mind.
‘”Care” Not About The Pain’ is what I call the first method. If your meditation method is not Vipassana (which includes watching the rise and fall of sensations), just maintain your mindfulness on your original subject of meditation. For example, it could be your breathing, or the name of Amitabha Buddha (Amituofo – which connects to his blessings for healing the pain). As the mind can only be at one ‘place’ at a time in each thought moment, the fact that you are feeling the pain means your mindfulness has already drifted off, or is repeatedly straying away from the subject of meditation, gravitating towards the pain, toggling to-and-fro rapidly. What the mind does not ‘mind’, it does not mind – and the body will not feel it. In fact, in meditation practice, unless it requires focus on parts of your body, you should not feel the burden of your body (with its pains), as you are supposed to be working with your mind only.
‘”Care” About The Pain’ is what I call the second method, as based on Vipassana (insight) meditation. Watch any pain that arises mindfully… but do not magnify it with frustration or imagination. Just watch it as it is, with all its changing, possibly throbbing forms, until it disappears… without a trace. This will seem surprisingly faster than you thought it would be. Paradoxically, the key is patience. The pain will disappear because all sensations that rise eventually will fall, even if they fluctuate for a while. The key is to make peace with the pain, so as to accept it from moment to moment, so as to see its workings clearly. It is amazing how acceptance instantly creates peace of mind. In contrast, fret over physical pain aggravates it mentally, making it seemingly constant and longer lasting. The Buddha likens this to shooting oneself with an arrow of suffering when already shot once by pain!
Do use the first method if you do not wish to shift your mindfulness away from your original meditation subject (if not practising Vipassana then). However, it is intriguing to see the moment pain dissipates in the light of mindfulness. There is a great sense of relief, surprise and joy when you catch a glimpse of the truth of impermanence. It is no longer theory merely agreed with in principle, but experienced! Do you recall the very moment your last headache disappeared? Probably not, due to the lack of mindfulness – but it definitely did disappear, or your head would still hurt! As the second method trains our patience, it increases our ability to rise above discomfort.True tolerance is without any thought of tolerating. Watch the pain unflinchingly and you will realise it to be unsubstantial and tolerable. As they say about life, ‘Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional!’
If you do not make
‘something’ of your suffering,
you literally suffer for ‘nothing’.
The Faith Factor: Treatise On Ten Doubts About Pure Land
The 48 Great Vows Of Amituofo: Boundless Blessings For This Life & The Next
Why Shoot Ourselves With Extra Arrows?
Comparison Of Pure Land Practice With Samatha & Vipassana Meditation (On Deathbed)