• Videos
  • Archives
  • About
  • Videos
  • Archives
  • About

Pain is not constant, it comes and goes

19th Dec 2016

I remember one of my sittings at the Vipassana meditation centre particularly well. It was one of the Adhitthana sittings, where one must endeavour not to move or adjust one's positions until the hour is up. About 3/4ths of the way through this session my back and legs were in particular pain, I would even say acute pain at certain points. I couldn't focus on the sensations occurring elsewhere on my body, the pain was so much.

So I decided to focus on the pain spots themselves and took a deep mental dive into them. The pain so far had felt like a constant never-ending saga. After about half a minute or so of just focussing on the pain in my back, I noticed that the area which actually felt painful seemed to change every second. So I picked just one area and focussed solely there. Sure enough, every few seconds I could feel the pain acutely in this area, followed by an immediate subsiding of the pain for a few seconds.

I was suddenly reminded of the concept of Anicca, the concept of "impermanence" the teacher had been speaking about earlier. Everything in life comes and goes. I realised that it was the same for the pain too. Although from a distance the pain felt constant, when I focussed on the exact area of pain itself it appeared to be happen in "pulses", i.e. it was coming and going, coming and going.

Fast forward to today. My cashflow situation hasn't been looking good for a week because my client has yet to pay my last invoice. This has been bothering me mentally. I am unable to take further action on it for a few days until I'm back at work, and yet I can't stop worrying about it. This morning it suddenly occurred to me that the reason I'm constantly worried is not because of the situation itself but because I keep dwelling on the situation. For now, I've already taken all the action I can take to remedy the situation, so there is no logic in worrying further. And yet my mind keeps worrying.

In effect this mental "pain" is the same as the physical pain I experienced before. It is pulsing, coming and going. But this time it's in my mind.

It occurs to me that this is how we all worry about things. By allowing our minds to pulsate with worrisome thoughts about situations we can't really do anything about in the present moment. I remember listening to Eckhart Tolle saying something along these lines - that one can handle the present moment but one can't handle or do anything about a future scenario projected by one's mind since it's not real.

All mental pain and anguish in my existence most likely adheres to this pattern of pulsing, of Anicca.

Once one realises this one also realises that the way to handle this is to be aware of the transitory nature of one's pain, that it is indeed coming and going. For my specific issue that means waiting until next week when I can take the next steps to remedy the situation and trying my best not to worry about things now.

In effect, meditate on the nature of the mental pain itself just as you would with physical pain. It's important not to the fight the pain coming and going. Just accept it as it is, and that it will keep coming into your mind as it does. Awareness of its nature is itself enough to lose its tight grip over you.