It’s been a difficult few weeks for this body – a lot of pain; yet, the mindfulness has never left me. I’m so grateful for those who have introduced me to the practice.
“If one thing, O [Bhikkhus], is developed and cultivated, the body is calmed, the mind is calmed, discursive thoughts are quietened, and all wholesome states that partake of supreme knowledge reach fullness of development. What is that one thing? It is mindfulness directed to the body…” AN.I.xxi
Lately I’ve been experiencing a lot of pain due to pressure on some nerves in my left lower neck and left shoulder – a combination of stress and osteo-arthritis, it seems – and I’ve noticed that no matter how intense the pain becomes, I can go inside it. There is nothing to inhibit me going inside the pain to investigate the nature of reality (here in the form of physical pain), except, naturally, my conditioned preferences – the usual “I want…” and “I don’t want…”
Yesterday lying belly down on my chiropractor’s apparatus, arms dangling down at the sides, the pain was particularly severe, and so I went into it and asked the question that I used to guide my child with, when, as a little girl, she had her ‘growing pains’ (or as she called them, “the hurty-bendies”). That is: “Is the awareness itself painful?”
There is the object of awareness – here, it is the pain in the arm – but, right there co-existent with that pain, is awareness-in-itself painful. I couldn’t say ‘yes.’ It was awareness of pain. On ‘its own side’ (so to speak) the awareness was simply open and accomodating of deeper and deeper layers of the pain, until the pain was energy, vibrating energy. I didn’t take the opportunity right then, because too much else was going on; with my body being manipulated by the chiropractor – but, such moments are a good opportunity to inquire into the nature of things. The matter of exactly what is the quality of ‘unpleasant’ prior to or independent of preferences, for example.
And on reflection, there is no doubt that while I was turned towards the pain, rather than wishing it away, the discursive chatter had ended, and some wholesome states bending toward awakening were present, such as: investigation of reality, compassion, concentration.
And, of course, in terms of immediate benefit, the suffering of resisting the pain was absent. Good stuff.