Working With Pain

Pain isn't always what we think it is. We think, "This hurts, it's awful," or "I want it to go away," or we worry that it never will. We may assign blame "It was my own fault," or think that if we can just find out why it's happening, we can find a solution. But pain isn't what we think. It isn't our opinions, worries or analysis. It's actually just a cluster of very intense body sensations.

This meditation is for those times when we've tried everything to fight the pain, and are ready to try another approach. Here we come at pain in a fairly friendly manner. We're not inviting it to stay; we're accepting that it is there.

How to Practice

So, say you have a pain in your tummy. Find a comfortable spot, sitting or laying down. If it's a tummy ache, maybe lying down.

Now consciously relax all the muscles you've been tensing up that are not related directly to the pain. There may be more than you thought. Arms, legs, jaw, neck - all might be involved in trying to support the pain in the belly.

Now pay attention to the pain - just the sensations, not your opinion about them. For example, “unbearable” is an opinion, not reality. The actual body sensation may be a sensation of cold, or heat, of pulsation or vibration or pulling or weight. Explore what the actual physical sensation is like. Is the sensation in a large or small area? Is it light or concentrated? Does it seem to be tingling? heavy? sharp? pulling? tight? cold? warm? hot? Ask yourself what this pain is like? Does it change as you watch? If you had this pain earlier, how is it different now than it was before?

Nothing more needs to be done. If the pain is awful you may only be able to stay with this for a few seconds. Even that is beneficial. With practice, you may be able to stay longer.

It's beneficial, because paying attention to pain in a kind manner softens our relationship to it. When it can't be avoided or medicated, it's nice to have something we can do to move the energy out of "Poor me," and into, "What's is this?"


This can be used with emotional pain like sadness, or anger, too. Each emotion will have a corresponding body sensation. For example, for me, anger feels like heat rising up my neck or throat. Sadness feels like someone dropped a bean bag on my lungs. Find out more here.