Practice With Pain


Awareness can be a cure for any ailment, but I’m speaking here of physical pain. Like emotional pain, when physical pain gets intense it seems particularly difficult to practice a technique enough to help ease it, as your mind is wholly busy with avoiding the pain in any way possible.

Having studied the Presence technique of Eckhardt Tolle described in the post Ending Physical Pain: For Good, I have discovered how best to implement it to work for me during even the most intense pain that cannot be cured by any action. The particular way I implement Eckie’s technique is to create a one dimensional sort of sensory symphony out of the sights, sounds, scents and bodily sensations that I am witness to moment to moment. By creating this symphony with the addition of each instrument, you flesh out the experience of the present moment and thus divert yourself from the pain causing you to fall asleep and succumb to it.

  • Focus directly on the pain. This is the timpani and other percussion, the base sense of the moment. After having worked this process for a month i find it takes about 10 seconds for the pain to lessen to half its regular strength. That doesn’t always mean it’s gone by any means, but it becomes bearable enough to allow focus to be expanded to incorporate all parts of the symphony.
  • Follow the pain. Often I find that extreme pain can be followed down to its original source. For example, when I’m experiencing a pinched nerve, the pain first feels like a generalized ache. As I focus on the area affected I find that the pain breaks down into, often, three focal points, such as the eye, the neck and the back. If I focus on each of them I often find that each eases until there is only the original source point left, generally behind my right shoulder blade. Once I whittle the pain down to that point it may or may not go away, depending on my level of ability to focus.
  • Incorporate sound. This is the bass instruments of the symphony, the undertone of the piece. If the pain plateaus at a certain level and won’t budge (and if you’re still awake by then), incorporate the first, loudest sound in the room. In my room it is an air purifier. Focus on that sound as well as the pain as if they are one part; not focusing on one or the other but both at once. Make it a point not to think anything at all about either of these, as it’s easy for the pain to gain a foothold when your intention is split between them. If you begin to think thoughts about either the sound or the pain, drop the words in mid~sentence, not allowing yourself to finish the story or add anything to the dialogue. I find that cutting thoughts off before they finish works really well, but make sure not to fight them. If they come, they come. Hop on the next point of consciousness that arises. Once you have observed the loudest sound you hear, incorporate each quieter sound, focusing on each one without thinking about or labeling it. Birds, voices lawn mowers in the distance, tree frogs, wind, thunder, everything you can hear. Add each one to the one before it, as if melting instruments together. Once it is added to the others it becomes one instrument that makes many sounds. I like to imagine it as a one~dimensional experience.
  • Incorporate other senses. One by one, incorporate other sense perceptions into the symphony of this moment; light on your eyelids as the french horn and other brass, motion senses, such as wind for the strings deep and high alike, changes in the pain for the flitter of flutes. Your mind will attempt to have opinions about each, or a dialogue. Drop any thoughts in mid~sentence. Continue on until every single sensory perception is involved in the observable atmosphere. Listen to the sounds as a whole, not picking out one or the other. See the image as a whole and think of yourself as an alien that has just come from another planet to experience Earth for the very first time.

When I’m working in this state, trees always seem particularly striking and alien to me, as do the sounds of wind and birds. Allow yourself to acknowledge that everything ~~ the pain, the light, the colour, the sound, the motion ~~ is a part of this moment, and it is perfect just as it is…because it IS what is, ALL that is, and there can be no other. The more you hold yourself in this state the greater chance you have of conquering your pain, or at the very least being able to sleep through it, which can certainly feel like relief. If you experience chronic pain you know how vital being able to sleep is to your welfare.

This may not take the pain away, but it always makes my experience significantly better, altering my emotional state so that instead of crying, feeling sorry for myself and being frustrated I am laying quietly, in pain but not suffering, drifting off to sleep. With time, this practice cures pain for good. I cannot wait!