Dhamma Letter No. 7

Q&A No. 2

Q. How does one deal with pain during sitting meditation?

Encountering and investigating physical pain while sitting in meditation can be immensely productive. However, enduring and battling pain for long bouts can cause undue stress that, at times, can be counterproductive to the practice.

Experienced meditators cultivate concentration such that they are able separate themselves from physical pain. They are able to "look" at it from a distance, as merely sensation, rather than a cause of stress. This is the goal as it relates to pain during sitting meditation - the ability to view it objectively, not as something being "done" to you that causes aversion and stress. In this way, using pain as an object of meditation is both productive and necessary.

On the other hand, for the novice meditator just beginning to sit for long stretches of time, an encounter with pain can consequent an enduring battle that causes stress, distracts the mind, and disallows it from calming to the point where proper investigation can take place. For this reason, it is sometimes better to situate oneself physically during sitting meditation as to avoid pain by using cushions or a chair. This will allow the mind to calm with more ease and develop qualities necessary for better handling of pain. In this way, avoiding pain by physical re-situation helps one deal with it more directly in the long term.

However, one should be cautious when allowing oneself to move to a more comfortable position during sitting meditation. If you are too quick to capitulate to pain, you will develop a habit of readjusting your posture. This habit will disallow you from skillful striving as it relates to comprehending and dealing with pain.

In addition, one must use wisdom to know when pain is better ignored or better dealt with directly. There are times when it must be confronted and understood, but also times where acknowledging it and using something else as your object of concentration is more skillful.

May all beings be happy and well through the practices in this very life!

Buddha Sāsanaṁ Ciraṁ Tiṭṭhatu!
May the Buddha’s teachings last a long time!

​Bhavatu Sabba Sotiṁ ca Maṅgalaṁ ca!!
May everyone be led on the path of peace and blessing!

Sādhu Sādhu Sādhu !

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