Buddhist resources on coping with pain

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andrewuk
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Re: Buddhist resources on coping with pain

Post by andrewuk » Fri Aug 03, 2012 5:11 am

I am very happy to read this post. Thank you very much for posting all those helpful information.

Once I asked Bhikkhu Samahita and when he said 'when there is a body, there is pain'. I felt that quote very 'awakening' as I never thought about physical pain in that way.

I read this a while ago -

Pain Not Suffering by Bhikkhu Bodhi, Darlene Cohen, Shinzen Young and Reginald Ray.
http://archive.thebuddhadharma.com/issu ... /pain.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Shinzen Young also has CDs on working with pain.
http://www.shinzen.org/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Bhikkhu Bodhi once told me that Saddha (trust, confidence or faith) is important in dealing with pain. One has to try to find a cure for one's condition but if no cure is forthcoming one has to find some meaningful activity to sustain one's interest and some methods of practice to help one cultivate one's mind and develop wholesome qualities. This is where trust or faith (saddha) is important. One can use it as an opportunity to develop several paramis: patience, equanimity, compassion and loving-kindness for others who are subject to still worse suffering than us; energy in pursuing the good despite the handicap, etc.

He also suggested to me to listen to his lectures 'In the Buddha's Words' and the Majjhima Nikaya series.

For me, I find Buddhanusati very helpful - it lifts the mind up and keeps things going. OR just to recollect what a noble disciple would do when in pain. And it is very enjoyable listening to Dhamma talks by Bhikkhu Bodhi and others. This has become my daily activity and interest..

Another method I find helpful is Metta Bhavana. I don't find that focusing on the pain very helpful as it tends to intensify the pain for me. As I try to put all the attention on pain, it gets really powerful and gigantic. (defilements tend to arise when the mind is narrow or tight) What I find helpful is open minded metta bhavana. (just being open and soft towards it, know it and be 'friendly' towards it, don't harm it etc) This is boundless metta and when the mind is boundless, if greeds/aversions arise, they do not overcome or pervade the mind. And this actually helps physical pain.

I have to do this early though - if I 'catch' it or notice the pain pretty late, then it will last longer and stronger.

Another very helpful method is what I learned from Bhikkhu Ananadajoti's lectures and attitude - anicca or perception of impermanence. It made me realise that I am not 'always' in pain. Or the pain was just really bad a few days ago but it got better a few days later. It's like a river flowing through.. sometimes it hits some rocks and sometimes it doesn't. So it's just a matter of being patient.. To go through this pain with patience, whether it takes one hour or a life time. In this way, I don't get overly excited when I am better and I don't get overly down when I am in pain.

Another very helpful thing Ven Anandajoti taught in his talk is to recollect one's wholesome deeds. Or to recollect one's good qualities. This is not to boost one's ego but to encourage oneself to do more wholesome deeds. This really bring calmness and joy, which I find helpful for both physical and mental pains.

I have also learned that I have to live with it, not fight it or to push it away. There can be very strong mana or conceit when I wanted to 'sit through pain' or biting the teeth to overcome the pain. This is an attitude that I took pain as an enemy.. And of course, I didn't win :-)

I sincerely hope that you and others would be pain free.

Andrew
Meditate, don't be negligent, lest you may later regret it!

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retrofuturist
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Re: Buddhist resources on coping with pain

Post by retrofuturist » Fri Aug 03, 2012 5:25 am

Greetings,

Question: "When we suffer a great deal from physical illness, should we try to maintain our calm, or should we contemplate the feeling of suffering and fight it off?"

Response from Ajahn Thate: http://www.dhammathai.org/e/dhamma/qa/qa3.php#15" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

danieLion
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Re: Buddhist resources on coping with pain

Post by danieLion » Fri Aug 03, 2012 10:35 pm

Hi Andrew and Retro,
Thanks for the posts. They both contain important information and I intend to respond to all their points as time and pain permit.
Best,
Daniel

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Re: Buddhist resources on coping with pain

Post by danieLion » Fri Aug 03, 2012 10:47 pm

Quick Note:
I believe (this is an ongoing experiment) Joseph Goldstein's "mantra" "It's okay to be uncomfortable" is working for me the past few days (along with practice, acupuncture, massage and Tylenol in moderation NSAIDs--aspirin, ibuprofen give me abdominal cramps).

I'll have more to say on this later.

Best,
Daniel

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Re: Buddhist resources on coping with pain

Post by danieLion » Fri Aug 03, 2012 11:12 pm

The challenge for anyone facing serious disease is how to balance determination and willpower with acceptance of human frailty and imperfection.
-Kenneth S. Cohen, The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing, Ch., "The Energy of Emotions" (p. 234).

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Dmytro
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Re: Buddhist resources on coping with pain

Post by Dmytro » Sat Aug 04, 2012 5:19 am

Hi Daniel,

I would like to recommend an excellent resource:
http://www.reversingchronicpain.com/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

It's not Buddhist, but it has some similar methods involving breath, etc.

Best wishes, Dmytro

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Re: Buddhist resources on coping with pain

Post by danieLion » Sun Aug 05, 2012 2:31 am

Living with Chronic Illness or Pain by Arinna Weisman and Larry "Somebody" (who says some very moving things).

http://www.dharmaseed.org/retreats/1280/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Overall, very excellent and practical advice. My initial aversion to the "hippie vision quest" vibe was overwhelmed by the fact the more I listened to her and others share the more I kept thinking, "I'm not alone." This is especially true if you have issues of shame with illness: not the "good" kind we find in the Buddha's advice to his son in MN 61, for instance, but the "bad" kind where you blame yourself for things you can't control (old age, sickness, death, discomfort, chronic pain conditions, etc...). Likewise with the asking for help discussions and DEALING WITH DOCTORS AND OTHER MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS.

Unless you're completely new to Buddhism, you can probably skip the first talk (and probably most of the second); and if you've experience with body scans and/or metta you can probably skip those guided meditations too.

danieLion
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Re: Buddhist resources on coping with pain

Post by danieLion » Sun Aug 05, 2012 2:58 am

Hi andrewuk,
Thanks for your wonderful post. My experience with all those strategies is very similar.

The unpredictability of chronic pain or illness requires us to have as many tools at our disposal as possible. Otherwise, we slip too easily into trying to take it out on others or going from the extreme of thinking that when we're not in pain or have a good day we're cured, and the other extreme of thinking when we're in pain or have a particularly bad day that ALL hope is lost.

Best,
Daniel

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Re: Buddhist resources on coping with pain

Post by danieLion » Sun Aug 05, 2012 3:15 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Question: "When we suffer a great deal from physical illness, should we try to maintain our calm, or should we contemplate the feeling of suffering and fight it off?"

Response from Ajahn Thate: http://www.dhammathai.org/e/dhamma/qa/qa3.php#15" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Metta,
Retro. :)
Answer: "Either way will do." :thumbsup:

Thanks Retro,

Ines Freedman's and Goldstein's advice (above) go into more detail on how to navigate pain in terms of samatha (calming), vipassana (insight), etc.... I personally think Freedman's (drawing on Shinzen Young) Local Intensity/Global Spread and Free Floating In the Discomfort and other techniques exemplify Rev. Thate's wise words.
Either way will do. That is, some who suffer from the pain severer than they can bear will need to fight it off by calm, that is, leaving everything completely out of the consciousness. This is possible. That is , they turn toward calm and free the heart so that it reaches the state of calm fully, becoming altogether unconscious. They can drop themselves in that state for an hour or two. And as soon as the heart withdraws, whatever illness or pain may absolutely disappear....

Therefore, the best way is: When the feeling of suffering occurs, one should contemplate it in accordance with the method of Satipatthana..., so that one is capable of perceiving it indifferently, without possessing such a feeling as part of the self....

[T]he best way is that after we have practiced calm sufficiently, we should learn to contemplate problems. It will be very good to be able to make use of both methods.

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Re: Buddhist resources on coping with pain

Post by danieLion » Sun Aug 05, 2012 8:16 am

The Buddha practiced jhāna, got massages and sun bathed, evidently for chronic back pain.

In the Jara Sutta we read:
I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Savatthi in the Eastern Monastery, the palace of Migara's mother. Now on that occasion the Blessed One, on emerging from seclusion in the late afternoon, sat warming his back in the western sun. Then Ven. Ananda went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to the Blessed One, massaged the Blessed One's limbs with his hand and said, "It's amazing, lord. It's astounding, how the Blessed One's complexion is no longer so clear & bright; his limbs are flabby & wrinkled; his back, bent forward; there's a discernible change in his faculties — the faculty of the eye, the faculty of the ear, the faculty of the nose, the faculty of the tongue, the faculty of the body."

"That's the way it is, Ananda. When young, one is subject to aging; when healthy, subject to illness; when alive, subject to death. The complexion is no longer so clear & bright; the limbs are flabby & wrinkled; the back, bent forward; there's a discernible change in the faculties — the faculty of the eye, the faculty of the ear, the faculty of the nose, the faculty of the tongue, the faculty of the body."

That is what the Blessed One said. Having said that, the One Well-gone, the Teacher, said further:

I spit on you, old age —
old age that makes for ugliness.
The bodily image, so charming,
is trampled by old age.
Even those who live to a hundred are headed — all — to an end in death,
which spares no one,
which tramples all.
Samyutta Nikaya 48.41 (Rev. Thanissaro tr.)
I suspect the idea that pain and jhāna, or pain and meditation in general, don't mix is some bull.
Best,
Daniel

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tiltbillings
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Re: Buddhist resources on coping with pain

Post by tiltbillings » Sun Aug 05, 2012 8:31 am

danieLion wrote:The Buddha practiced jhāna, got massages and sun bathed, evidently for chronic back pain.

In the Jara Sutta we read:
I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Savatthi in the Eastern Monastery, the palace of Migara's mother. Now on that occasion the Blessed One, on emerging from seclusion in the late afternoon, sat warming his back in the western sun. Then Ven. Ananda went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to the Blessed One, massaged the Blessed One's limbs with his hand and said, "It's amazing, lord. It's astounding, how the Blessed One's complexion is no longer so clear & bright; his limbs are flabby & wrinkled; his back, bent forward; there's a discernible change in his faculties — the faculty of the eye, the faculty of the ear, the faculty of the nose, the faculty of the tongue, the faculty of the body."

"That's the way it is, Ananda. When young, one is subject to aging; when healthy, subject to illness; when alive, subject to death. The complexion is no longer so clear & bright; the limbs are flabby & wrinkled; the back, bent forward; there's a discernible change in the faculties — the faculty of the eye, the faculty of the ear, the faculty of the nose, the faculty of the tongue, the faculty of the body."

That is what the Blessed One said. Having said that, the One Well-gone, the Teacher, said further:

I spit on you, old age —
old age that makes for ugliness.
The bodily image, so charming,
is trampled by old age.
Even those who live to a hundred are headed — all — to an end in death,
which spares no one,
which tramples all.
Samyutta Nikaya 48.41 (Rev. Thanissaro tr.)
I suspect the idea that pain and jhāna, or pain and meditation in general, don't mix is some bull.
Best,
Daniel
As I trundle towards my dotage and decrepitude, I can agree with the sentiment: "I spit on you, old age." And I can appreciate this rather human face of the Buddha, just like the last line in the Yasa Sutta.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

danieLion
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Re: Buddhist resources on coping with pain

Post by danieLion » Sun Aug 05, 2012 8:43 am

tiltbillings wrote:As I trundle towards my dotage and decrepitude, I can agree with the sentiment: "I spit on you, old age." And I can appreciate this rather human face of the Buddha, just like the last line in the Yasa Sutta.
Thanks, Tilt. That's a great sutta. I especially like the end.
the Buddha wrote:But when I am traveling along a road and see no one in front or behind me, at that time I have my ease, even when urinating & defecating.

danieLion
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Re: Buddhist resources on coping with pain

Post by danieLion » Tue Aug 07, 2012 2:19 am

Dullness, Lethargy, Restlessness And Pain by Bhante Bodhidhamma

Stream: http://dharmaseed.org/talks/audio_player/245/11669.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Download: http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/245/talk/11669/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Pain section is from 34:25 to 44:47

Extract:
Even the Buddha had pain.... At least when pain does come there's one good thing about it. It does concentrate us.

danieLion
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Re: Buddhist resources on coping with pain

Post by danieLion » Tue Aug 07, 2012 2:28 am

Dealing With Pain by Ajahn Sucitto

Stream: http://dharmaseed.org/talks/audio_player/9/14998.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Download: http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/9/talk/14998/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

danieLion
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Re: Buddhist resources on coping with pain

Post by danieLion » Tue Aug 07, 2012 3:40 am

HOW TO BE SICK
Elisha Goldstein wrote:Ninety million people in the United States alone suffer from some form of chronic illness. These statistics only speak to physical illnesses and not to emotional ones. The number leaps from there. When Toni Berhnard fell ill in Paris on a trip in 2001, doctors told her she had an acute viral infection, but Toni never recovered. Since that day her illness has become her greatest teacher.

http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_inde ... 10&e=39609" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
I read Toni Bernhard's book How To Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers when it came out (but currently have no copy).

I highly recommend this interview by Sylvia Boorstein (and Toni's book) if not just for it's discussions on firing your doctors, navigating the medical-industrial-complex, and everyone and their cat trying to diagnose you. This is personally meaningful to me, as, like Toni, the doctors really don't know how to diagnose me or even what to do with me in general (download).

Other topics include the paradox of hope (for a "cure"), equanimity v. compassion, not getting better.

See also this talk by Toni (not to be confused with her husband, Tony, another dharma teacher): stream or download.

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