Meditation on Pain

'I discovered that what I had believed to be solid and painfully real was not necessarily so.'

'I discovered that what I had believed to be solid and painfully real was not necessarily so.'

These days’ sitting down for meditation always begins with a deep sigh of relief as I step off the merry-go-round of life and give myself permission to let go of all my petty preoccupations. It is a beautiful thing to realize that all that is required of me is to breathe deeply into the simplicity and spaciousness of the present moment.



When I first began practicing meditation I could not find this level of relaxation very easily. Thoughts would quickly edge into my bubble of peace and my mind restlessly conjured up a steady stream of stuff to think about. I was taught to objectively label this as ‘thinking’, take the next breath and anchor into the sensory presence of the body. It was a good method up to the point where feeling my body meant feeling excruciating pain.

I could barely get past 20 minutes of sitting upright before I was debilitated by physical pain. I stretched, I used props but to remain sitting was torture. My body was in a state of contraction and I could not be comfortable enough to even touch what was going on in my mind. I didn’t know then that the physical pain of sitting was my resistance to really getting to know myself.

I persisted until a breakthrough came. During one of my meditation sessions it dawned on me that I could explore the nature of my pain. What is this pain made of? How am I relating to this pain?



I noticed that my experience of pain was totally focused on trying to escape it, even though it remained inescapable. So I considered a different tactic – rather than continuing to fail at my attempts of escape I decided to move closer towards it – to let myself feel the pain and become more acquainted with it. As I did this and stayed the course, the quality of discomfort changed. The more I remained aware of it, the more it changed. They say in quantum physics that the observer effects what is observed. Intimate awareness of my pain seemed to trigger a response in my body.



By simply placing my awareness on the pain and remaining present with it, my body could somehow adjust itself towards less and less pain. It is hard to explain this in words but the pain seemed to have a message contained within it. When I ‘got’ the message the pain transformed. Its edges softened up as I peeled away layers of myself.

I did some research and discovered that the body is made of more water and space than solid matter, and as far as quantum physicists was concerned, even that solid matter was reducible to pure energy. The pain turned from an unyielding opponent to a supple teacher as I slowly unraveled the tightly wound ball of my body. I became a person who could sit comfortably upright to the point where random people on the street commented on how good my posture was!



Meditation practice showed me how to transform physical pain. This discovery bore more fruit than just comfort in my body, it also revealed that what I believed to be solid and painfully real was not necessarily so. My awareness was more powerful than I knew and pain was a doorway into unknown parts of myself. I think the greatest lesson I gained was finding the courage to move closer towards whatever I was feeling, even the scariest stuff.