Meditating on Pain

Weeks of Pain

I have had some weeks of tooth pain. After awhile, the pain feels overwhelming, both physically and mentally. It becomes hard to concentrate on anything. I had taken all of my painkillers four or five hours ago and the pain was difficult to endure.

Meditating on Pain

I wanted to meditate today, but tried to imagine how this could be successful when I was experiencing such pain. I then remembered reading about meditation as a way of dealing with pain. Could this work?

I also thought about past distractions during meditation. Those past distractions could be ignored (or re-focused from) as easily as when distracted by my own thoughts. Maybe I could treat the pain as a distraction?

As I sat to meditate, it came to me - why not focus on the pain as the object of meditation? Rather than trying to return my focus from the pain, why not make the pain the object, like my breath, a flame or my personal wee Buddha?

I sat and began meditation. I listened to the bell and then naturally focused on my breath. I then turned my focus to the pain in my lower jaw. This was unusual and a bit scary, to actually focus on the thing I would normally try to ignore. I quickly realised how easy it is to meditate on the pain. My thoughts were not the same sort of distraction that they are when I am focusing on my breath or a candle. I didn't need to try to focus on the pain as it was unavoidable.

Over time, the pain began to change. There was a warmth and numbness at the edges, with the pain becoming more centralised. Eventually, it was at a central point and then after some moments, it disappeared.

I had set my alarm for 50 minutes and after 38 minutes, there was a knock at the door. I opened my eyes, turned off the alarm and realised the pain was gone.

Pain Versus Suffering

We spend our lives running from pain - real and imagined - and this effort is suffering. We all must experience pain, but much of the suffering is a choice, whether obvious to us, or not. The Buddha never spoke of ending pain, but sought the end of suffering. He understood that we create suffering and we can end it.

My embracing of pain was an incredible experience. I would have never learned this in a book. That is what meditation is - experience. We call meditation "practice" because that is exactly what it is. It is not something we absorb through the writing or comments of others. It is something we discover for ourselves.

Suffering within Buddhist Psychology is caused by grasping or repelling away from stimuli. We spend a great deal of energy attempting to hold onto impermanent things and for this we suffer. We also exert a great deal of psychic energy trying to avoid things we don't like, including physical pain. Once I sat with the pain and didn't try to push it away, it went away of its own accord.

Aroha nui,

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Gerald Lee Jordan, MBA, MEd, MCouns ❤️