Morning Intention: A Better Relationship With Pain

** Morning Intention: To see pain as something I have a relationship with 

So much advice these days seems to be about telling people to cut things out. Cut toxic people out. Cut toxic food out. Be deliberate in creating the life you want. It’s good to see people living for themselves in ways previous generations never did. But the “cutting out” advice often goes too far in suggesting that we can get rid of any aspect of our human experience that we don’t like. There are, specifically, four challenging aspects of being human that you cannot cut out: sickness, aging, death, and separation. You cannot choose not to experience these, just as you cannot choose your parents. You are in relationship with these four, like it or not, so you may as well learn some skills for improving the relationship.

Meditation shows us the limits of our “cutting out” mentality. If you sit long enough, you will notice pain and dis-ease in your body, and if your sole approach to life is trying to get rid of what you don’t like, you will suffer enormously around the smallest of unpleasant sensations. Then you might start to blame the meditation or yourself for what is totally normal. So it’s good to remind yourself: you are going to feel pain in this life, no matter what you do, and maybe there’s a better way than the blame-game. One healthy perception is to see the pain as raw sensation: Does it have a shape, texture, pulse? As with any relationship, you can and should take space from it if it gets too intense, so by all means shift or move after a few minutes. But before you do, see what you can learn about this relationship, which you will have as long as you live.

So here’s the practice: Today, sit and focus on your breath. When you are reasonably concentrated, open your awareness to your body and notice any tension or tightness there. Don’t stay with any sensation for more than a few moments, but do play with your perception of pain to see if perceiving it as raw sensation changes anything. Improving your relationship with pain is the only way to find the pleasure of being alive.

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