Mindfulness and Pain

Below is an email I sent to my good friend Carolyn, inspired by a common challenge people share with me; how to deal with pain in life through mindfulness.

Dear Carolyn,

Today I wanted to share an insight about working with pain, suffering and negative emotions in our mindfulness practice. It’s a common question I get, how to deal with physical and emotional pain using mindfulness, but I have found it more helpful to flip that question.

So how can you use pain to deepen your mindfulness?

First we need to understand the purpose of mindfulness, which is to wake up, to move from thinking about life to experiencing it directly. In that direct experience, there is peace, regardless of what is happening in that instant.

So why is pain so helpful? Because you can’t ignore it! It is easy to daydream your way through a day of good health when everything goes right. Try daydreaming with a splitting headache, a bad back or a broken heart, and you’ll find it’s nearly impossible.

But pain can still become a part of your story, something to think about it, unless you work with it skillfully, here’s how:

Instead of thinking about what caused the pain and how to alleviate it, take some time to experience it. Feel it as you would feel the sun on your back, make friends with the sensation we call pain and use this experience to become more present.

Surrendering to pain like this can quickly deepen your connection with now, but don’t be confused. I’m not suggesting you seek pain or inflict it on yourself, just let life’s frustrations, upsets and physical ups and downs come into your life without resistance.

Practice this and pain becomes fuel for the fire of your mindfulness.

Hope this helps,


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