Thanks for pointing me to this IanAnd. I had seen this before but not really absorbed it: it seems to first recommend getting a clear view of the body, feelings and consciousness - not to force change on them but 'to the extent necessary just for knowledge and remembrance'. With mental objects there are additional things to see - for example 'he understands how the arising of the non-arisen enlightenment factor of calm comes to be and how the completion by culture of the arisen enlightenment factor of calm comes to be' - to see clearly what is conducive to the abandonment of the 'fetters' and the culture of the 'factors of enlightenment'. I'm not clear what a 'painful feeling' is really though: if I feel a sudden physical pain (for example last night I splashed some hot fat onto my hand) within a few moments it doesn't seem actually painful as such but rather a particular physical feeling in a certain place - equanimity in the face of pain perhaps - but really it seems that the pain that distresses is gone leaving just a not-unpleasant hot or stinging sensation. Consciousness /mind-state seems to me much harder to 'see' - it seems fugitive and to change/disappear so fast that I really just remember it afterwards. Anyway - I've probably wandered off-topic. I think I could do worse than just to take this sutta as a guide.
Just to add (from http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=Dhamma
) - I find this a real encouragement that it is possible in this life:
Anguttara Nikaya 11.12 The Six qualities of the Dhamma:
1. Svakkhato: The Dhamma is not a speculative philosophy, but is the Universal Law found through enlightenment and is preached precisely. Therefore it is Excellent in the beginning (Sila: Moral principles), Excellent in the middle (Samadhi: Concentration) and Excellent in the end (Panna: Wisdom),
2. Sanditthiko: The Dhamma is testable by practice and known by direct experience,
3. Akaliko: The Dhamma is able to bestow timeless and immediate results here and now, for which there is no need to wait until the future or next existence.
4. Ehipassiko: The Dhamma welcomes all beings to put it to the test and to experience it for themselves.
5. Opaneyiko: The Dhamma is capable of being entered upon and therefore it is worthy to be followed as a part of one's life.
6. Paccattam veditabbo vinnunhi: The Dhamma may be perfectly realized only by the noble disciples who have matured and enlightened enough in supreme wisdom.