≡ Menu

How to reduce tension and pain with meditation


Photo credit: Ian Boyd

Photo credit: Ian Boyd

When we begin to meditate, we soon find out we’re plagued with negative mind/body habits. Usually we cling to pleasant sensations and reject sensations we don’t like. Clinging within our body will generate tension and pain. This happens because clinging accumulates energy that eventually feels bad.

People usually call this energy knots. They can be quite annoying and, if one lacks guidance, they could be there for years. Here are 3 steps to start reducing energetic pain and tension. Bear in mind, however, that our clinging habits are thick and persistent and that it’ll take a while to “clean up” our mind/body from unwholesome habits. The steps are:

Stop fighting pain

Feel it, get to know it, welcome it, let it be here. Let your breathing teach you physical openness so you provide it to pain. Breathing can only happen when lungs and chest are relaxed. If you tense your breathing muscles, breathing becomes difficult and anxiety rises. Same goes for other uncomfortable sensations. If you tense your muscles AND mind due to the presence of pain, difficulty and anxiety will rise. Resisting pain is waging war on pain and it’ll only create more tension. Openness to pain is peace towards pain and it’ll reduce tension. Open up.

Stop injecting energy to pain

When the mind only sees pain, energy is injected to pain. When the mind sees pain and the rest of the sensations (neutral and pleasant), energy is spread out throughout sensations and isn’t accumulated in just one spot. Paying attention to pain only is like using a magnifying glass to send sunlight to one spot. If there is no glass, sunlight would fall everywhere and would not start a fire. How does one get rid of the magnifying glass in meditation?, just let your awareness “fall” on all sensations. If you only pay attention to one spot (like pain), you’ll have limited awareness (a magnifying glass) that will send energy to that spot. How does one allow awareness fall in all directions? Just realize that awareness does not need your help to be aware of things. When you drop all effort to be aware of things, awareness will be set free and fall on all sensations, like sunlight falls on everything. Dropping effort, opens up awareness. Once again, open up.

Stop rejecting the emptiness of pain

This one is a bit harder. Phenomena is, in fact, empty. Of what? Of ill will, aversion, ignorance and unwholesome desire/craving. Seeing the emptiness of pain will allow its energy to spread out (awareness will “fall” on pain and on the emptiness of pain) and to dissolve it. So, if you want to see the emptiness of pain, you will not see it. The desire to see emptiness will prevent your awareness to see it. Emptiness is seen when there is no desire to see it. Also, we don’t really like to feel emptiness so we usually yearn to feel something. In fact, emptiness wants to be felt but we just keep trying to feel stuff. This yearning, of course, limits awareness. The instruction here is, then: 1) Have no desire to see emptiness, have no desire to reject emptiness. Let it consume you, till you become open space that is aware of everything. This requires that you lose your definition of self, but its ok, something better comes along.

In brief, to reduce pain caused by negative mind/body habits, one needs to let awareness open up. To do that, these three practices must be happening at the same time:

  1. Become friends with tension-pain
  2. Quit focusing only on pain (to stop injecting energy) and
  3. Perceive the emptiness of tension-pain

Practice and let me know how it goes.