Pain v Deeper States

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

Post by one_awakening » Tue Sep 19, 2017 7:53 am

Just like many people, I experience pain during sitting meditation. I can sit for quite a long time with pain, however I find if I move into a position where there is no pain, I begin to get into deeper states of meditation.

I understand that the pain is important and I have gained insight into the nature of pain, such as it's impermanence, selflessness and the fact that it has a physical and mental component and also the way mind reacts immediately to try and push away the pain. These have all been important in understanding my own suffering and has allowed me to develop a more stable mind that simply observes pain and not allow it to disturb the mind. But it does seem to be a barrier to reaching higher states of concentration.
Last edited by one_awakening on Tue Sep 19, 2017 9:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Saengnapha
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Re: Pain v Deeper States

Post by Saengnapha » Tue Sep 19, 2017 8:29 am

one_awakening wrote:Just like many people, I experience pain during sitting meditation. I can sit for quite a long time with pain, however I find if I move into a position where there is no pain, I begin to get into deeper states of meditation. I understand that we want to develop a stable mind that doesn't try to push away unpleasant feelings, but for me it seems to come at the expense of deeper states of meditation.
Can you sit a different way? In a chair?

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Spiny Norman
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Re: Pain v Deeper States

Post by Spiny Norman » Tue Sep 19, 2017 8:40 am

one_awakening wrote:Just like many people, I experience pain during sitting meditation. I can sit for quite a long time with pain, however I find if I move into a position where there is no pain, I begin to get into deeper states of meditation. I understand that we want to develop a stable mind that doesn't try to push away unpleasant feelings, but for me it seems to come at the expense of deeper states of meditation.
There is no need for yogic contortions and physical pain, just find a position which is basically comfortable for you. A stool or a chair is fine, you can even meditate lying down.
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DooDoot
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Re: Pain v Deeper States

Post by DooDoot » Tue Sep 19, 2017 11:28 am

one_awakening wrote:I find if I move into a position where there is no pain, I begin to get into deeper states of meditation.
Yes. Which is why it is probably best to avoid pain.
one_awakening wrote:I understand that the pain is important...
Its not important in the Pali sutta teaching of the Anapanasati Sutta, which emphasises pleasant feelings from meditation. It may sound illogical but, in the reality of practise, when the mind learns to experience pleasant feelings and, in particular, be skilled at being non-attached towards pleasant feelings, the mind can cope with painful feelings when they arise in ordinary life (such as when sick or injured).
one_awakening wrote: But it does seem to be a barrier to reaching higher states of concentration.
My personal view & experience is in agreement with the above. Pain is a barrier to higher states of concentration.

I think you should ask the following questions: "If a person has a very good sitting posture, are they missing out on something by not experiencing pain?" Or "when the Buddha entered into jhana (thus could feel no pain in the body), did he miss out on something?" The answer is in the higher paths of the Pali suttas, such as the Anapanasati Sutta or Jhana teachings, there is no mention of observing pain. Pain is really actually not that important. It is only some contemporary methods, such as Mahasi & Goenka, which emphasise pain (due to their interpretations of the Satipatthana Sutta).

Caodemarte
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Re: Pain v Deeper States

Post by Caodemarte » Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:21 pm

DooDoot wrote:
one_awakening wrote:I find if I move into a position where there is no pain, I begin to get into deeper states of meditation.
Yes. Which is why it is probably best to avoid pain.
one_awakening wrote:I understand that the pain is important...
Its not important in the Pali sutta teaching of the Anapanasati Sutta, which emphasises pleasant feelings from meditation. It may sound illogical but, in the reality of practise, when the mind learns to experience pleasant feelings and, in particular, be skilled at being non-attached towards pleasant feelings, the mind can cope with painful feelings when they arise in ordinary life (such as when sick or injured).
one_awakening wrote: But it does seem to be a barrier to reaching higher states of concentration.
My personal view & experience is in agreement with the above. Pain is a barrier to higher states of concentration.

I think you should ask the following questions: "If a person has a very good sitting posture, are they missing out on something by not experiencing pain?" Or "when the Buddha entered into jhana (thus could feel no pain in the body), did he miss out on something?" The answer is in the higher paths of the Pali suttas, such as the Anapanasati Sutta or Jhana teachings, there is no mention of observing pain. Pain is really actually not that important. It is only some contemporary methods, such as Mahasi & Goenka, which emphasise pain (due to their interpretations of the Satipatthana Sutta).

Anything this comes up can be observed, but nothing should be sought.

However, if this pain is simply the body becoming more flexible there are advantages to it. If it is unwholesome, signifying damage that should be avoided or your sitting "career" may be cut short.

Thousands of years of practice seem to have come up with the best postures for most people, but none of us is "most people." I would think any posture is fine it keeps you with a straight spine (actually its natural gentle curves in a "S" shape), is stable, keeps you alert (lying down often leads to drowsiness). and is not harmful.

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Aloka
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Re: Pain v Deeper States

Post by Aloka » Tue Sep 19, 2017 5:34 pm

Sit in a straight backed chair if you have physical problems. I've received meditation instruction from teachers with two different traditions and none of them have told their students to try and and force themselves into a painful position in order to meditate.

:anjali:

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Re: Pain v Deeper States

Post by DooDoot » Tue Sep 19, 2017 8:28 pm

Caodemarte wrote:Anything that comes up can be observed, but nothing should be sought.
The four right efforts in the noble path define what is to be observed & what is to be abandoned.
Caodemarte wrote:However, if this pain is simply the body becoming more flexible there are advantages to it.

All sitting postures will eventually give rise to pain or stiffness. The right path is when deeper meditation (on breathing) results in not being able to feel any physical pain or discomfort. This deeper meditation is ideally what should be developed.
Caodemarte wrote:If it is unwholesome, signifying damage that should be avoided or your sitting "career" may be cut short.
Indeed.
Caodemarte wrote:Thousands of years of practice seem to have come up with the best postures for most people, but none of us is "most people." I would think any posture is fine it keeps you with a straight spine (actually its natural gentle curves in a "S" shape), is stable, keeps you alert (lying down often leads to drowsiness). and is not harmful.
Yes. A valid posture is natural gentle curves in a "S" shape. One will waste lots of time sitting in pain merely for the purpose of making the body more flexible.

Caodemarte
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Re: Pain v Deeper States

Post by Caodemarte » Wed Sep 20, 2017 2:18 am

DooDoot wrote:...
Caodemarte wrote:However, if this pain is simply the body becoming more flexible there are advantages to it.

All sitting postures will eventually give rise to pain or stiffness. ....
It depends on the person. I know people and know of more who have no pain or stiffness in lotus or Burmese. They can comfortably sit for many hours or perhaps days without physical difficulties. As an inflexible person myself, I sit in a kneeling posture. I often find myself more flexible after sitting though stiffness, soreness, and minor pain. One must be able to distinguish between pain that signifies damage and that which does not. Sometimes it is more useful to sit through pain; sometimes not. One must use mature judgement. The important thing is to keep the spine in that "straight" S curve as much as possible in the most stable wholesome posture. It is never an objective to seek pain, or dullness, or comfort. In the end, we do the best we can with the goal of "good enough."

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Kim OHara
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Re: Pain v Deeper States

Post by Kim OHara » Wed Sep 20, 2017 2:41 am

Caodemarte wrote:
DooDoot wrote:...
Caodemarte wrote:However, if this pain is simply the body becoming more flexible there are advantages to it.

All sitting postures will eventually give rise to pain or stiffness. ....
It depends on the person. I know people and know of more who have no pain or stiffness in lotus or Burmese. They can comfortably sit for many hours or perhaps days without physical difficulties. As an inflexible person myself, I sit in a kneeling posture. I often find myself more flexible after sitting though stiffness, soreness, and minor pain. One must be able to distinguish between pain that signifies damage and that which does not. Sometimes it is more useful to sit through pain; sometimes not. One must use mature judgement. The important thing is to keep the spine in that "straight" S curve as much as possible in the most stable wholesome posture. It is never an objective to seek pain, or dullness, or comfort. In the end, we do the best we can with the goal of "good enough."
:goodpost:
but I would just add that Westerners who haven't habitually sat on the floor at home, in school and elsewhere since childhood are very very rarely going to be able to sit in the classic meditation postures for long. Those classic postures are based on 'normal' seating positions of the cultures they developed in, not on any mystical 'rightness' of sitting cross-legged, or on the floor, or both. We might as well do the same, i.e. adapt our normal sitting posture so that it is well balanced, stable and comfortable.

:namaste:
Kim

Caodemarte
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Re: Pain v Deeper States

Post by Caodemarte » Wed Sep 20, 2017 1:14 pm

Kim OHara wrote:
:goodpost:
but I would just add that Westerners who haven't habitually sat on the floor at home, in school and elsewhere since childhood are very very rarely going to be able to sit in the classic meditation postures for long. Those classic postures are based on 'normal' seating positions of the cultures they developed in, not on any mystical 'rightness' of sitting cross-legged, or on the floor, or both. We might as well do the same, i.e. adapt our normal sitting posture so that it is well balanced, stable and comfortable.

:namaste:
Kim
Thanks Kim. The people I referred to are Westerners. I am not so sure that these postures are based so much on traditional sitting postures as often said. They appear to be more built on the general structure of the human body to produce the most well balanced, stable, still, wholesome, alert posture. They are worth doing if you can. If, like me, you can't, you take the next best available. All postures are aids, of course, and, as you said, have no magic power in and of themselves.

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