Pain Meditation: Deify or Defy?

If you have ever had pain (who hasn’t), you may have tried two techniques to “get rid of it” with some degree of failure. Either you deify the pain, that is, really get into it, inviting others to join in your pity party, or you defy it, ignoring or distracting yourself from it, soldiering on. This is true of all kinds of pain, but it’s more obvious to see with physical pain.

As someone who has endured pain from klutzy accidents not entirely “my fault,” I’ve found that no singular approach works. A combination of time release “pain meditations” helps. If you have fallen, say, and fractured your fifth metatarsal as I did six months ago, defying pain is not so good. Conscious, grounded awareness on how to move and what makes the pain better or worse, is what’s called for. On the plus side, such an accident allows us to tune in with greater sensitivity. Bossing people around or complaining as a pain deifer is not so good either as we risk magnetizing pain’s grip on us, and feeling more pain instead of less.

Here’s a pain meditation that can strike the right balance. Try a gentle dose:

Assume a relaxed and comfortable posture that allows for ease of breathing. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, breathing in “space” and breathing out “tension.” Notice and feel the area of pain, but without dwelling on it too much. Give it some space. Do this mentally and visually, nudging it to shift its shape just a bit.

Ask the pain what it needs, and be open to any answers or a well of silence. Perhaps the painful area needs a little massage, a certain vitamin or cream, or to be surrounded by golden light or the soothing sound of music. When ready, open your eyes and follow through on your promise to pain, without defying or deifying it. Be sensible in giving it what it wants. So, how do you deal with pain?

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About sheilaklewis

As a writing coach, meditation teacher, writer, and academic tutor, I'm passionate about words and the silent spaces between words. In this context, I run book clubs and writers' groups where the resonance of carefully crafted words can spark readers and writers to share their own stories. Connecting through conversation; making memories matter; embracing editing and revision, and imaginative wordplay are some solo and collective outcomes. I came to what I call my "Meditate Write Now" practice after years of art-making, writing grants, curriculum, children's stories, and more. Meditation kept my mind from meandering too far off point and also led me to write from the still point within. May our paths cross in creative journeys across time and internet connections! Other details: My husband and I are the parents of two amazing sons and one daughter-in-law, and smitten grandparents of Micah (born December, 2013). I don't drive, and have lived in the same apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, for too long.
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3 Responses to Pain Meditation: Deify or Defy?

  1. Lia Brigante says:

    Sheila; I do not do formal meditation as you know but do a version of it in my practice. That is where I learned to go deep and let my subconscious scour around for information without the chattering of my consciousness. When I got back from the hospital in May, 2011 after lung cancer surgery (successful, thank goodness) I lay down on my bed, excused myself to my houseguest, and went into a trance state for about an hour, mainly to “reclaim” my experience away from the medical profession and all their labels and back into my own body and life, however it was meaningful to me and whatever it meant to me and not on paper. I think this is also helpful with pain, I’m not talking about “reframing” which I think is a trick of interpretation and therefore a consciousness-raising function, which we labeled as a failure and threw out a long time ago; more a claiming of the pain, particularly the history of it, which traditional medicine strips us of as soon as we are in contact with them. A good example of this is pain in my knees and neck and hand joints, which is arthritis left from 10 years of grueling messenger cycling in NYC; not really a woman’s job, I would posit, but I am proud of myself nonetheless and when I think about my pain as lawful battle scars that hurt when it rains or my system is otherwise clogged or congested, it leads me to a whole different way of dealing with it which is with loving kindness and no moral judgments. You would be surprised how much this releases the tension that always makes pain worse (I think the judgments comprise the tension, largely) so that the pain can be treated as a logical outgrowth of your human life. Makes it much less complicated to deal with. I hope this contributes to any open-minded person’s way of approaching pain. Lia

    • sheilaklewis says:

      Hi Lia, I love what you shared about pain and your thoughtful approach to it–I agree that the tension can make it worse, and that “pain is a logical outgrowth of human life.” What’s interesting is what shows up years after a cause, like bicycle messengering, or too much yoga can negatively impact the joints. We are machines and subject to wear and tear and rust with aging. We can make it better or worse. Thanks, Sheila

      • Lia Brigante says:

        Sheila – people push yoga as if it’s the end all and be all of physical misery and suffering, which it not only sure is not, but, as you pointed out, can cause it’s own set of injuries. I wish more people were aware of this and not pushing yoga as an answer for the pain of living a traditional life n society. I am sure they would attract many more adherents. Lia

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