realistically watching pain as a meditation object

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

realistically watching pain as a meditation object

Postby alan... » Thu Apr 04, 2013 3:22 am

i've heard many teachers teach that if one has pain that one has trouble ignoring that one should watch the pain as the meditation object.

has anyone had success with this?

in my experience the pain gets worse and lasts longer. how many times have we been in pain and then get distracted by a movie or a funny joke or a friend and then later we notice that we forgot the pain?

on the other hand, how many times have we noticed that when we pay pain too much mind it intensifies? for some (most?) paying too much attention to pain will make it worse in a psychosomatic way, so that even when the pain should have lessened or gone away, one still feels it.

for example, i used to feel a great deal of pain in sitting meditation but after a few years i learned how to completely ignore it and now i feel literally zero. if i had just paid full attention to every little ache and pain that nagged me i imagine i would simply sit with myriad aches and pains!

thoughts?
alan...
 
Posts: 824
Joined: Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:37 pm

Re: realistically watching pain as a meditation object

Postby Ben » Thu Apr 04, 2013 3:34 am

I have been utilising the anicca characteristic of sensation (pleasant, unpleasant and neutral) as a meditation object for nearly 3 decades. I can assure you, it is far easier observing painful sensation with objective awareness than it is for pleasant sensation.
Without proper instruction, one can confuse the actual sensation with one's mental reaction to it or the some sapparently causal external stimulus. For many people, vedananupassana, can be an extremely efficacious approach.
kind regards,

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16075
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: realistically watching pain as a meditation object

Postby alan... » Thu Apr 04, 2013 3:41 am

Ben wrote:I have been utilising the anicca characteristic of sensation (pleasant, unpleasant and neutral) as a meditation object for nearly 3 decades. I can assure you, it is far easier observing painful sensation with objective awareness than it is for pleasant sensation.
Without proper instruction, one can confuse the actual sensation with one's mental reaction to it or the some sapparently causal external stimulus. For many people, vedananupassana, can be an extremely efficacious approach.
kind regards,

Ben


interesting. that makes sense. the number of teachers i've heard say this (not to mention it's in the suttas more or less) points to it being a valid practice. could you elaborate on technique? mental process?
alan...
 
Posts: 824
Joined: Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:37 pm

Re: realistically watching pain as a meditation object

Postby Ben » Thu Apr 04, 2013 4:23 am

alan... wrote:
Ben wrote:I have been utilising the anicca characteristic of sensation (pleasant, unpleasant and neutral) as a meditation object for nearly 3 decades. I can assure you, it is far easier observing painful sensation with objective awareness than it is for pleasant sensation.
Without proper instruction, one can confuse the actual sensation with one's mental reaction to it or the some sapparently causal external stimulus. For many people, vedananupassana, can be an extremely efficacious approach.
kind regards,

Ben


interesting. that makes sense. the number of teachers i've heard say this (not to mention it's in the suttas more or less) points to it being a valid practice. could you elaborate on technique? mental process?


Hi Alan,

I practice under the guidance of my teacher, SN Goenka and his teacher Sayagi U Ba Khin.
If you have the opportunity - I recommend that you attend a ten day course at one of SN Goenka's or U Ba Khin's centres so that you can learn this particular approach and develop some depth of practice as a result of meditating continuously in a supportive environment.
The format of the ten day course is that the first 3.5 days is devoted to practicing anapana to develop samadhi (concentration/calm). With greater samadhi one's mental acquity becomes heightened and better able to discern subtle physical and mental phenomena. In the afternoon of Day 4, one switches one's attention to the sensations on and in one's own body. One utilizes a 'scanning technique' to observe the many and varied sensations occuring. Initially on the body and then in time, inside the body. In later stages the 'scanning motion' is later dispensed with altogether. From day 4, meditators are asked to remain within the meditation hall, to not open their hands, or move their legs or open their eyes for for three one-hour meditation sessions. This is to assist in developing skill in dealing with painful sensations as they arise and pass away. However, if one cannot sit still or can't remain with their eyes closed for the entire period - its not a big deal.
On Day 10 one learns metta bhavana and incorprates that into the practice.
Of course the retreat begins with refuge and the taking of precepts and ends with the sharing of merits.
kind regards,

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16075
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: realistically watching pain as a meditation object

Postby pilgrim » Thu Apr 04, 2013 4:36 am

Ben, I agree with you to a certain extent. In a retreat environment, after developing some concentration, one can focus on the pain and see it as a feeling, rather than identify with it as pain. However, under other circumstances, for e.g sitting in a dentists chair when there is little samadhi, I find it helpful to focus attention on a sensation removed from the pain, like the constant pressure of my feet against the footrest. If I focus on the pain of the dental work, my mind cannot remain as an objective observer for more than a few moments due to the intensity and the dynamic nature of the pain.
User avatar
pilgrim
 
Posts: 944
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 2:56 pm

Re: realistically watching pain as a meditation object

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Apr 04, 2013 4:39 am

My teacher recommends observing the minds feelings and reactions to the pain primarily, rather than focus on the pain itself. If you focus on the pain itself it can multiply the aversion, looking at the mental activity helps you to see it objectively and let go of aversion.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
User avatar
Goofaholix
 
Posts: 1928
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: realistically watching pain as a meditation object

Postby Ben » Thu Apr 04, 2013 4:42 am

pilgrim wrote:Ben, I agree with you to a certain extent. In a retreat environment, after developing some concentration, one can focus on the pain and see it as a feeling, rather than identify with it as pain. However, under other circumstances, for e.g sitting in a dentists chair when there is little samadhi, I find it helpful to focus attention on a sensation removed from the pain, like the constant pressure of my feet against the footrest. If I focus on the pain of the dental work, my mind cannot remain as an objective observer for more than a few moments due to the intensity and the dynamic nature of the pain.


Yes, absolutely, Pilgrim.
The retreat is a training ground - and the ten-day course that I am recommending is really an "introductory" ten-day course where the bare-bones of the practice is imparted and then must be applied day-in day-out for decades or even lifetimes.
For me, its a life-long, multi-life practice. And I don't think that I could sit in a dentist's chair and remain objective about painful sensation!
Its a long path!
with metta,

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16075
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: realistically watching pain as a meditation object

Postby Ben » Thu Apr 04, 2013 4:47 am

Goofaholix wrote:My teacher recommends observing the minds feelings and reactions to the pain primarily, rather than focus on the pain itself. If you focus on the pain itself it can multiply the aversion, looking at the mental activity helps you to see it objectively and let go of aversion.


Hi Goof,

I think that is Dhammanupassana and as such, a very valid approach.
With vedananupassana it isn't so much a focus on the pain but on the characteristic of anicca of the unpleasant sensation, directly observing its rise and fall while developing equanimity with respect to the experience.
kind regards,

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16075
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: realistically watching pain as a meditation object

Postby danieLion » Thu Apr 04, 2013 5:12 am

See the Dhammawheel topic Buddhist Resources for Coping With Pain
danieLion
 
Posts: 1947
Joined: Wed May 25, 2011 4:49 am

Re: realistically watching pain as a meditation object

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Apr 04, 2013 6:57 am

The ordinary man, who is uninformed about the Dhamma, will seek distraction in sensual pleasures to ignore the truth of suffering, which is ignorance (avijjā).

The well-informed disciple of the Buddha will confront suffering whenever and wherever it arises, and strive to develop insight into the three characteristics. It is not easy, or we would all be Arahants already. To develop insight requires deep concentration, and deep concentration depends on consistent morality.

Paying attention to painful feelings may make them seem more severe at first, but it is aversion that is the root of the problem. A meditator must cultivate patience with painful sensations — not to make them go away — but to realise their true nature. There is no substitute for genuine insight.

Patience and Perseverance
AIM WebsitePāli FontsIn This Very LifeBuddhist ChroniclesSoftware (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)
User avatar
Bhikkhu Pesala
 
Posts: 2013
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:17 pm

Re: realistically watching pain as a meditation object

Postby danieLion » Thu Apr 04, 2013 7:43 am

Just remember that if the pain is chronic you need to take breaks from focusing on it. Even the Buddha had to ask someone else to give the dhamma talk once in a while so he could go lie down and rest his bad back.
danieLion
 
Posts: 1947
Joined: Wed May 25, 2011 4:49 am

Re: realistically watching pain as a meditation object

Postby reflection » Thu Apr 04, 2013 8:16 am

I'd say both approaches are skillful. By focusing on the pain you can train equanimity. Also, often the pain goes away due to watching it (with the right mindset), while it would persist if you didn't watch it. So by watching the pains you can relax the body.

But deliberately focusing on something else than pain is also a good training. If in meditation the mind keeps going back to the pain, it means it is attached to feeling the body. It goes to painful feelings in the same way as it would chase after pleasant feelings or sights and sounds. So that's an attachment of the mind, a hindrance in meditation. When this hindrance is weak or not present at all, you can meditate and once you get out of it, feel pains all over the body that were unnoticeable before. Because there was just breathing and/or joy or whatever object and the mind let go of the body.

When I know pains may become a problem like this, I often set a mark in my meditation - from that point on I don't get interested in such bodily feelings anymore. If they occur, instead of watching them thoroughly, the mind withdraws from it and goes back to the breath. If the mind still keeps going back, I change my posture to soften the pain.
User avatar
reflection
 
Posts: 1115
Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2011 9:27 pm

Re: realistically watching pain as a meditation object

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Apr 04, 2013 10:25 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Paying attention to painful feelings may make them seem more severe at first, but it is aversion that is the root of the problem. A meditator must cultivate patience with painful sensations — not to make them go away — but to realise their true nature. There is no substitute for genuine insight.


Thanks Bhante.
User avatar
Spiny Norman
 
Posts: 2517
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: With the cockney chimney-sweeps in Mary Poppins

Re: realistically watching pain as a meditation object

Postby danieLion » Thu Apr 04, 2013 8:45 pm

Few of us are not in some way infirm, or even diseased; and our very infirmities help us unexpectedly.

William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, "Religion & Neurology."
danieLion
 
Posts: 1947
Joined: Wed May 25, 2011 4:49 am

Re: realistically watching pain as a meditation object

Postby alan... » Fri Apr 05, 2013 2:05 am

Ben wrote:
alan... wrote:
Ben wrote:I have been utilising the anicca characteristic of sensation (pleasant, unpleasant and neutral) as a meditation object for nearly 3 decades. I can assure you, it is far easier observing painful sensation with objective awareness than it is for pleasant sensation.
Without proper instruction, one can confuse the actual sensation with one's mental reaction to it or the some sapparently causal external stimulus. For many people, vedananupassana, can be an extremely efficacious approach.
kind regards,

Ben


interesting. that makes sense. the number of teachers i've heard say this (not to mention it's in the suttas more or less) points to it being a valid practice. could you elaborate on technique? mental process?


Hi Alan,

I practice under the guidance of my teacher, SN Goenka and his teacher Sayagi U Ba Khin.
If you have the opportunity - I recommend that you attend a ten day course at one of SN Goenka's or U Ba Khin's centres so that you can learn this particular approach and develop some depth of practice as a result of meditating continuously in a supportive environment.
The format of the ten day course is that the first 3.5 days is devoted to practicing anapana to develop samadhi (concentration/calm). With greater samadhi one's mental acquity becomes heightened and better able to discern subtle physical and mental phenomena. In the afternoon of Day 4, one switches one's attention to the sensations on and in one's own body. One utilizes a 'scanning technique' to observe the many and varied sensations occuring. Initially on the body and then in time, inside the body. In later stages the 'scanning motion' is later dispensed with altogether. From day 4, meditators are asked to remain within the meditation hall, to not open their hands, or move their legs or open their eyes for for three one-hour meditation sessions. This is to assist in developing skill in dealing with painful sensations as they arise and pass away. However, if one cannot sit still or can't remain with their eyes closed for the entire period - its not a big deal.
On Day 10 one learns metta bhavana and incorprates that into the practice.
Of course the retreat begins with refuge and the taking of precepts and ends with the sharing of merits.
kind regards,

Ben


i desperately want to go on a retreat, heck i want to ordain! however i am poor and have a family. so taking trips or time off work are out of the question :( . so i need to learn how to do these things on my own. i can sometimes get half a day to myself, so i meditate a lot and am mindful. these insight methods sound promising, thank you for telling me about them, i will look more into them.
alan...
 
Posts: 824
Joined: Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:37 pm

Re: realistically watching pain as a meditation object

Postby SarathW » Fri Apr 05, 2013 3:15 am

pilgrim wrote:Ben, I agree with you to a certain extent. In a retreat environment, after developing some concentration, one can focus on the pain and see it as a feeling, rather than identify with it as pain. However, under other circumstances, for e.g sitting in a dentists chair when there is little samadhi, I find it helpful to focus attention on a sensation removed from the pain, like the constant pressure of my feet against the footrest. If I focus on the pain of the dental work, my mind cannot remain as an objective observer for more than a few moments due to the intensity and the dynamic nature of the pain.



I visit dentist once a year. I do not let him give me aesthetic injection even if he does a filling.
I do not think that I will be able to do that if he pulls a tooth out though.
I think people got different pain thresholds based on their Kamma. :shrug:
SarathW
 
Posts: 2069
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am


Return to Theravada Meditation

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests