Lesson
15

Sitting with Pain

Having grown up accustomed to chairs and sofas, sitting on a cushion on the floor can be a humbling experience. It’s not uncommon, especially when learning to sit, to experience a certain degree of discomfort, or even considerable pain, as the body adjusts to an unfamiliar posture.  

It’s important to understand that pain is simply another occcurance in one’s life. Nobody goes through this life completely free of pain, be it physical, emotional or otherwise. Chasing the elusive dream of a pain-free existence we alienate ourselves from everyday life. We’re neither as good as we wish we were or as bad as we’re afraid we are. And that goes with pain.

We can learn to experience pain simply as pain, rather than complicating it by wishing it weren’t there, by trying to avoid it, or becoming demoralized by it. Rather than allowing our paind to remain as suffering we can practice willingly to live our lives fully, regardless of liking or not liking what is going on at any particular point.

So don’t be surprised if you do experience a certain amount of discomfort. It may be very helpful for you to observe your pain without trying to end it, without trying to fight it.

Pain is something neither to run away from nor to try to transcend in a kind of spiritual machismo. Machismo is Zen practice creates either false pride or a constricting sense of defeat. Both of these are hindrances to mature practice. Be sensible.

Can you begin to relate with pain in a new way? If you really pay attention to the pain, you can begin to see that your pain is not a continuous state, like putting your finger on a buzzer, but rather more like waves and cycles, nuances within the p ain that you can learn to differentiate. Pain is not a thing itself but a variation in your experiencing in each moment.

Often people respond to physical leg pain by tensing the muscles around it. Which intensifies it! So try observing your pain and breathing into it to relax your muscles. This is not a technique guaranteed to eliminate pain. This a way to relate to your pain.