Pain in the body can be reduced if we know how to do it. There is a technique that teaches us that pain is effectively dealt when we abandon the usual resistance to it. Aging, sickness, and moments of pain may come to all of our bodies. Normally, our first response to pain is to resist it. Our mind has numerous strategies to ward pain off or to avoid it. It normally treats pain with aversion, fear, agitation dread and despair. The natural desire to avoid pain is translated in our minds into turbulent thoughts of fear and anxiety, and our sense of inner balance is swept away in the storm of those feelings. However, if we are trapped in this cycle of fear, resistance and frustration, there is little space for healing, which compassionate attention can bring in. Our emotional reactions of fear, denial and resistance often lodge themselves in our bodies alongside the pain, which hinders the healing. Even when our body recovers, sometimes the pain lingers much longer in our bodies and minds, in the absence of mindfulness or compassionate attention.
When a pain arises in our bodies, our natural, conditioned reaction to it is to pin it down and solidify it with concepts. This, however, increases the intensity of the pain in our perception. We say, “my knee is aching,” “my head is tearing apart,” and things like that about “my illness”. Using this concept of “my” or “mine” in labeling the pain, we unknowingly intensify it. Our mind immediately blows up the concept to predict more pain in the future. Our concepts serve to make the pain more rigid and also undermine our capacity to respond to it skillfully.
We should learn to surround the discomfort and pain with an attention that is loving, accepting, and spacious. All of us have this space of non-judgmental, loving and compassionate awareness within them. When we learn to befriend our bodies, especially, in the moments when they are most distressed and uncomfortable, we learn that it is possible to face the pain without aversion and fear. Instead of running from the pain, we can bring a curious and loving attention right into the heart of pain. When we are able to do that, the sense of our well-being and inner balance returns. We can see that the sensations occurring in our bodies are there, but the suffering that the thoughts and emotions, in reaction to those sensations, bring up, is not present. Thus, surrendering our resistance, we find that pain is no longer intimidating or unbearable.
Learning to work skillfully with pain is not an easy task. However, meditation is a way to reduce the pain or make it go away. In moments when the intensity of pain seems unbearable it is good to take your attention away from it and connect with a simpler focus of attention such as breathing or listening to a music for a time. When your heart opens up and your mind is calm, you are able to feel the spaciousness of gentle loving awareness within, you may bring your attention back to the areas of pain in the body.
Meditation offers us a very different way of responding to pain in our bodies. Instead of resisting or avoiding the pain, we learn to investigate what is actually being experienced within our bodies with a calm and inquisitive attention. We bring a compassionate and accepting presence right to the core of the pain.
Turning our attention directly toward the pain, we discover that the pain that we might have previously perceived as a solid mass of discomfort is, in reality, very different. We find that the sensations are changing from moment to moment, and those sensations have different textures. Some of them are felt as heat, pressure, burning, stinging, and like that.
When we let go of the concepts and the need for labeling this sensation as “my pain”, we are increasingly able to connect with the actual sensation as it happens and it feels much lighter. We discover that it is possible to find calm and peace even in the midst of physical pain. Thus, by embracing our body with a loving awareness, we may find a deep inner balance and serenity in the midst of pain. These are moments of strength, when we can release helplessness, despair, and fear. This spacious awareness itself is a healing power, embracing which we find the way to peace and freedom within the changing events of our bodies.