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How Not to Suffer Around Pain in Meditation

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发表于 2021-1-26 00:33:46 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
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How Not to Suffer Around Pain in Meditation

The first thing that you have to understand about pain is that some of it comes from your actions in the past—such as the way you’ve been using your body, the way you’ve been feeding it, the extent to which you have or haven’t been exercising it—but some of the causes for the pain are things you’re doing right now. These are things you can change, and in some cases changing what you’re doing can make the pain go away.

But even if you can’t make the pain go away, there’s the question of the extent to which you have to suffer from the pain even when it’s present. Because what we’re aiming at is a state of mind that can be present to the inevitable facts of aging, illness, and death and yet still not suffer. So, the first line of business right now as we meditate is to learn how not to suffer around pain.

The ways to deal with pain are directly related to the Buddha’s instructions on how to use the breath as a topic for understanding feelings. There are *four steps* altogether (refer to *note* below).
The first step is to breathe in and out sensitive to rapture—and here the word “rapture,” pīti, can also mean fullness or refreshment.
The second step is to breathe in and out sensitive to pleasure or ease.

The third is to breathe in and out sensitive to mental fabrication, which means feelings and perceptions. The feelings here are feeling tones of pleasure, pain, or neither pain nor pleasure. Perceptions are the images or words you hold in mind by which you identify and label things. So, as I said, the third step is to be sensitive to these processes of mental fabrication.
The fourth step is to breathe in and out calming these mental fabrications.

Now, of the various forest ajaans, Ajaan Lee gives the most detailed instructions on the first two steps, and Ajaan Maha Boowa gives the most detailed instructions on the last two. Let’s look at what they have to say.

With regard to breathing in and out sensitive to rapture, Ajaan Lee recommends, when there are pains in the body, not to focus on the pains immediately. Focus instead on the parts of the body that you can make comfortable and refreshing with the breath.

As you try to give rise to feelings of rapture, it’s good to think of the different meanings of the Pāli term for rapture, pīti. When we translate it as “rapture,” it sounds like we’re trying to experience ecstasies, like Saint Theresa. In some cases, it actually can be that strong, but the term pīti can also mean refreshment or a sense of fullness, and for most people, that’s how we first experience this quality.

So, how do you breathe in and out sensitive to refreshment or fullness? One quick exercise is to find a spot in the body that’s especially sensitive—it might be the back of the hands, right at the diaphragm, or in the middle of the chest—and pay attention to that spot very carefully as you breathe in and breathe out. If there’s any sense of tension at all in that spot, disperse the tension. If you feel like you’re squeezing the breath out as you breathe out at that spot, stop the sensation of squeezing so that that spot can stay full even as you’re breathing out. If there’s any sense of pinching the breath or tensing up between the in-breath and the out-breath, allow the breath to dissolve that sense of pinching or tensing.

As you get so that you can maintain this sense of fullness while you breathe in and breathe out, and it feels pleasant, you can then think of the fullness and the pleasure spreading to the different parts of the body. You spread those feelings together with the breath energy. Now, we’ve already had some questions about what this breath energy is and how you sense it.

Try another quick exercise. Hold your hand out in front of your body and keep your eyes closed. The sensations that let you know your hand is there: Those are breath sensations.

Now, sometimes as you breathe in and breathe out, there will be a sense of movement in the breath energy in different parts of the body. Other times, it will be still, but either way, it’s an energy. Hold that perception in mind. That’s the perception you’ll use in order to spread the breath energy, together with the fullness and pleasure, throughout the body.
There are different perceptions you can hold in mind to help you feel the sense of the breath energy moving. For instance, you can think of the body as being like a sponge: As you breathe in and out, the breath comes in and out through all the pores of the sponge.

Another perception is that there’s a column of energy going down the middle of the body, and as you breathe in, energy comes in from the outside and goes into the column of energy, and as you breathe out, it goes out of the body in all directions from that column of energy. As you hold in mind the possibility that breath energy can do this, you will begin to sense that, yes, there is a movement.

Even though you use images to induce this sensitivity, that doesn’t mean that the energy is imaginary. It’s like telling a child that the world is round. As far as the child is concerned, the world doesn’t look round, so he has to imagine it as round. But as the child grows up, he begins to realize that, yes, the world is round. If you’re going to fly the quickest route from, say, Paris to Los Angeles, you have to fly over Greenland. If the world were flat, that wouldn’t work. But because the world is round, that’s the way you have to fly to save time. In the same way, you use your imagination to allow yourself to think that the breath energy does flow, and then as you get more and more sensitive to the body, you begin to realize that it actually does.

As you spread the comfortable sense of fullness along with the breath energy, you may run into pains. As I said, Ajaan Lee recommends that you not focus directly on the pain quite yet. Instead, keep your focus on the parts of the body where you can make the breath energy comfortable. This way, you give the mind a good foundation or a safe place to stay.

Then, when you feel secure in that good breath energy—accompanied by a sense of pleasure and fullness—the next step is to think of the energy radiating from the comfortable spot and going through the pain.

For instance, suppose you have a pain in your knee. Ajaan Lee recommends imagining the breath energy going down the leg and not stopping at the knee, but going through the knee and out the foot. If you think of the energy stopping right at the pain, that’ll reinforce the sense of tension around the pain, which is part of the problem.

Maybe, when we were children, we sensed the breath energy moving through the body, and we were afraid that if it went through the pain it would spread the pain, so we subconsciously tensed up around the pain to stop it. But that actually makes the pain worse. So, to repeat, if there’s a pain in the knee, think of the breath energy going through the pain in the knee and then out the foot.
In some cases, you’ll find that the pain will actually go away. That’s a sign that the pain was caused by something you’re doing right now. In other cases, though, the pain will still be there, which is a sign that the pain is caused by something that you did before you sat here or simply by the fact that your body is not yet used to this posture.

If you’re new to the meditation posture, there will inevitably be a period in which there’s pain in the legs as the blood is being blocked or being squeezed out of the part where the legs are folded. This forces the blood out of the main arteries into the capillaries. It’s as if there were a traffic jam on a main road, and the traffic has to go down through the small streets, where it gets even more jammed.

The difference with your body, though, is that if you keep forcing the blood through those capillaries by sitting in this posture again and again, the capillaries will eventually begin to expand. In other words, you’re turning them into new arteries. Streets can’t do this, but blood vessels can. If you have some patience with these kinds of pain, eventually they will go away over time as your body gets more adapted to the meditation posture.

You’ll notice that a large factor in making use of feelings of rapture and pleasure lies in the perceptions you bring to them, such as the image of the sponge or the column of energy, or of the energy being able to flow in different places and different directions. The same principle applies to feelings of pain. Your perceptions of pain play a huge role in the impact it has on the mind.
This brings us to the third and fourth steps in the tetrad, getting sensitive to mental fabrication and calming it. To sensitize yourself to how perceptions of pain may be affecting your mind, Ajaan Maha Boowa recommends that you ask questions about how you perceive the pain. For example, he says, suppose there’s a pain in your hip: Is the pain the same thing as the hip? Or are there two different kinds of sensations in the same place?

In other words, the sensation of the body is one thing and the sensation of the pain is something else. Now, your rational mind knows that these are two separate things, but all too often in our direct experience of the pain, something in the mind says that the pain and the body have become one and the same thing. The pain has invaded the body, and you’re trying to push it out.
So here, to calm the perception, you have to change it. The body and the pain are two separate things even though they’re in the same spot. The sensations of the body are the four elementary physical properties of earth (solidity), water (liquidity), fire (warmth), and wind (energy), but the sensation of pain is none of these things. It’s as if it’s on a different frequency.

We can make a comparison with radio waves going through the air. You put a radio in one spot, you adjust the dial to one frequency, and you get one station. If you adjust it to another frequency, there’s another station. You don’t have to move the radio to a different spot to get a different station, because the waves are all in the same place, and yet you can separate them out because their frequencies are different, and you’ve got something that can detect the difference. See if you can do the same thing with the sensations of the pain and sensations of the body in that one spot.

Another perception that might be playing a role in your experience of pain comes from the notion that we have to be responsible for our pains. In other words, right now you think you’ve got to warn the next moment in the future that there’s a pain right here. To correct that tendency, tell yourself, “I don’t have to tell the future. The future will find out on its own.” Otherwise, you use perceptions to keep sending a message from one moment to the next to the next, which stitches the pains together, adding to the pain and suffering.

A similar problem is when you’re sitting with some pain and you keep telling yourself, “I’ve been sitting with this pain for the past 15 minutes and the session’s going to last for another 25 minutes.” That’s 40 minutes of pain placed on top of one moment, and then, of course, the present moment will break down.

And here Ajaan Lee has a good image for problems of this sort: You’re plowing a field, and next to the plow you’ve attached a big bag. As the dirt falls off the plow, you put it in the bag. Of course, you’re going to get weighed down. So, simply get rid of the bag and let the pain fall off at the first moment. You don’t have to feel responsible for it; you don’t have to keep a record of it. Just stay with the sensation in the present moment.

Ajaan Maha Boowa notes that you can also ask yourself if the pain has a bad intention toward you. Your rational mind knows that the pain itself has no awareness, so it can’t have any intention to hurt you at all, but that perception may be lying around in your mind, the result of something you may have assumed about pain when you were a child, and it can still have an effect. So, try to bring it up into your conscious awareness by asking this question: “Does the pain mean to hurt me?” Then reason with any part of the mind that says, “Yes.”

Another series of questions you can ask about your perception of pain is this: “Is the pain one solid thing? Does it have a shape in your imagination or is it simply different moments of pain arising and passing way?” If you look very carefully, you see that it is made up of individual moments. So, try to drop the perception that the pain is solid or has a shape.

Then you look at those moments of pain and ask yourself: “As they appear, are they coming at me or are they going away?” If you have the perception they’re coming at you, that will make you suffer more from the pain. But if you can hold in mind the perception that as soon as they appear they’re going away, you’ll suffer a lot less.

* * * * *

From “Pain” in Good Heart, Good Mind : The Practice of the Ten Perfections, by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu https://www.dhammatalks.org/books/GoodHeart/Section0006.html

* * * * * * *

*Note*

"On whatever occasion a monk trains himself, 'I will breathe in...&...out sensitive to rapture'; trains himself, 'I will breathe in...&...out sensitive to pleasure'; trains himself, 'I will breathe in...&...out sensitive to mental fabrication'; trains himself, 'I will breathe in...&...out calming mental fabrication': On that occasion the monk remains focused on feelings in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. I tell you, monks, that this — ¥careful attention to in-&-out breaths — is classed as a feeling among feelings¥, which is why the monk on that occasion remains focused on feelings in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.

[As this shows, a meditator focusing on feelings in themselves as a frame of reference should not abandon the breath as the basis for his/her concentration.]

From "Anapanasati Sutta: Mindfulness of Breathing" (MN 118), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.118.than.html .


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