by Friends of Godwin


Working with pain is a very useful experience in meditation. In everyday life when we experience physical pain, what do we do? We try to do something about it immediately, change the posture or whatever, and then get rid of the pain because it is unpleasant. So by doing this we never learn about pain, which is a most important part of the human condition. We don’t know what types of pain we might have to experience in the future, so this is why I have been repeating so often, meditation is learning to be open to unpleasant experiences. Please don’t see them as a disturbance or a distraction.

Nothing is more important than the pain itself, either thoughts or whatever else, because that is what you are experiencing. So feel grateful for the pain because you can learn about the pain in a meditative situation.

We have to avoid two extremes. One extreme is always saying Yes to the body. This is pampering the body. The body says: I want it. We immediately go for it. So it is very important to learn to say No sometimes. Saying Yes always is pampering. Always saying No is being too hard on ourselves. So it is very important to have the correct balance, when to say Yes, when to say No.

So in relation to physical pain when you are meditating, if you immediately change the posture I would say that is pampering; and going through the pain, trying not to change the posture, grinding your teeth, enduring the pain, I would say that is the other extreme. So the middle way is learning, experimenting, exploring the pain, and then when it’s unbearable change the posture, stand up: very simple.