I find physical pain to be one of the most pure things to work with. It is a clean laboratory for exploring how the mind works.
Sensation without story
Byron Katie says that pain is always a story about the past.
Thoughts are always about the past or future, even as they appear to be about the present. They can never catch the Present. Whatever happens is gone before it can be reflected in a thought.
From being a sensation with a story, there is now – in seeing this – just a sensation. This sensation may be the same as before, but without the drama that comes with a story about it.
In addition to this, I also notice that whenever I am with the experience of the pain – without the drama, the sensation itself tends to change. It takes on a different appearance. It moves from being – yes, painful, to something else.
So there seems to be two distinct things happening.
First, the sensation is freed from the story about it, allowing the drama and struggle to fall away leaving the sensation as it is. Far more simple and harmless than the story about it.
Then, there is also the changing appearance of the sensation itself, when it is no longer resisted. It changes into something that – even if I wanted to – cannot really be labeled pain anymore.
Both of these may sometimes happen instantaneously as soon as there is recognition of pain. Especially if we are already familiar with these dynamics, if we are more initimate with this terrain.
If this is a new territory for us, it may take a little longer, and the ride may be more bumpy.
And if the pain is strong, or the belief in the story about the pain is strong, the ride may also be bumpy – even for those somewhat familiar with these dynamics. There is an invitation here to see the dynamics of it even more clearly, to be even more intimate with the terrain. To question and go beyond what we think we know.