Ten days ago I thought that the pain in my lower back was no more than common muscle soreness following that morning’s nine-kilometre run. Since then I’ve seen my body and mind (yes, they’re still two separate entities) react as pain ranges from subtle rumblings to excruciating intensity. I know that it has to do with changes in the structure of my spine (herniated discs) and that it is inevitable. I also know, from experience over 20 years, that such pain fluctuates in intensity, and that there’s no effective treatment for its cause.
At times I’m able to see “pain as pain,” along the lines of the advice the dying Buddha gave his long-time attendant:
Here, Ananda, a monk abides contemplating the body as body, earnestly, clearly aware, mindful and having put away all hankering and fretting for the world, and likewise with regard to feelings, mind and mind-objects.
Pain frequently morphs into suffering — when I feel dejected, when thoughts turn to I’m getting old and my body is coming apart. It is then that I remind my/self of the simple tools the Buddha gave us to help “put away hankering and fretting.” Sitting or lying down, I direct attention away from thoughts and sensations — to the next breath as it rises and falls. Immersing my awareness it that momentary experience offers instant refuge. Not a cure from neuropathic pain and flawed discs, but relief and the refreshing taste of happiness.
I’ve written about this before and every meditator knows of what I speak. And yet, and yet … how slow I am to remember that the remedy awaits within the next breath.
source: The Long Discourses of the Buddha.