Physical Pain


Most of us experience physical pain at some point, due to injury or serious illness. Some people live with chronic pain which threatens their employment, their mobility, family life and relationships, mental health, or  even their wish to continue living.

In a small way, perhaps something here may help shift the kind of relationship with pain that exists, so that no matter the quality of physical sensation that arises, the freedom of life remains uncircumscribed.


Unlike the remainder of this page, am starting with a paid book because it is simply the best I have found: Heal Your Body, Free Your Mind.

The author Ramaji uses this technique, I have used it, I have taught it to others and it works quickly and effectively.


Meditation teacher Shinzen Young leads a guided meditation for pain (in three parts):

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

He has an excellent article which has helped this author here: A Synopsis of Shinzen Young’s Book Break Through Pain


For an approach to pain through breath meditation :

For several other suggestions:

The author wrote a pain article based on his experience of pain here: 


2017 is The Global Year Against Post-Surgical Pain ( some interesting pain control links on this page ) :


Some curious results concerning research into pain perception have come to light. These results suggest that pain has less to do with actual physical harm than with perception of harm by the brain.

Work of neurologist V.S. Ramachandran: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Specifically Fibromyalgia

Retraining the Brain


Dr. John Sarno on back pain:


Applied Pain Article here.


Dr. Lorimer Mosely on Pain: here, here and here.


These comments by meditators regarding their experiences of physical pain point in a similar direction:

Sometimes, when resistance ceases, the pain simply goes away or dwindles to an easily tolerable ache. At other times it remains, but the absence of any resistance brings about a way of feeling pain so unfamiliar as to be hard to describe. The pain is no longer problematic. I feel it, but there is no urge to get rid of it, for I have discovered that pain and the effort to be separate from it are the same thing. Wanting to get out of pain is the pain; it is not the “reaction” of the “I” distinct from the pain. When you discover this, the desire to escape “merges” into the pain itself and vanishes. Discounting aspirin for a moment, you cannot remove your head from a headaches you can remove your hand from a flame. “You” equals “head” equals “ache.” When you actually see that you are the pain, pain ceases to be a motive, for there is no one to be moved. It becomes, in the true sense, of no consequence. It hurts——period. ~Alan Watts

I had a kidney stone attack once. Said to be one of the most painful things you can experience. I went into deep meditation and fully embraced the sensation. Then it was seen visually as a white, glowing compact brick and it became quite interesting to investigate and didn’t “hurt” at all. It became a quite interesting sensation and the identification with it as “mine” just dropped. After just a few minutes of curiously investigating it it just dissolved. =) I’m bound to agree – pain is illusion. ~ Eva Charlotte Jonzon


Ken Malloy writes a blog about pain here:


[ Thanks to Greg Goode for the entirety of the following extract from his book  THE DIRECT PATH :  A User Guide for a nondual approach to the experience of pain. ]


Purpose – Discovering whether pain establishes the body as objectively feeling something.

Let’s do a thought experiment about pain. Have you ever barked your shin on a table, stubbed your toe or bashed your knee into the computer under your desk ? Most people have. So think back on one of those times …

Cautionary note: If you suspect that you may have any medical or psychological issues involving pain, then consult your physician or therapist before conducting the following exercise.

1. Remember the direct experience of the pain. Close your eyes and attend to the direct experience of the pain itself. You may have experienced a flare of gnawing, aching discomfort. It may have come and gone in waves. Even when that discomfort was at its highest, did the feeling come pre-packaged with a label saying tat the pain was happening in the shin, the toe or in the body ? Is there any body attached to the pain ? Actually, many people have the experience that in very deep pain there seems to be nothing arising other than the pain itself.

2. The thought about the pain is not the pain. There might have been a thought that said, ” I couldn’t be possibly be feeling this unless it were happening to my body.” but notice that this was a thought about the pain and not the pain itself. A thought about the pain is not the direct experience of pain – it is more like the direct experience of a thought. Similarly, if the pain seems intense, surprising, worse than 90 % of the other pains you have experienced, etc. , notice that these are also thoughts that are not included in the pain itself.

3. Can you really see the pain ? So now (in memory) look at the area on the body that seems affected by the pain. In memory, lets say that a red or blue color arises in/as the seeing. In the direct experience of vision, what makes this color equal to pain ? What color IS pain ? Poetically it is depicted with red to symbolize blood or green to symbolize envy or other emotional distress. But in the direct experience of the color itself, what is your direct visual experience that amounts to pain ? Does the color carry the label that says ” pain ” ? Do you see the color feeling pain ? There may be thoughts arising that say, ” This redness is the same as the unpleasant feeling. That is how I am seeing the pain. But notice that this is a series of thoughts about the pain, and not included in the pain itself. If the direct experience of pain does not include the experience of a body feeling the pain, vision does not include it, and a thought does not include it either, then when you combine all three modes of experience together, you still get no experience of a body as a feeler. zero + zero + zero = zero.

4. After all, what makes it pain in the first place ? Even the pain doesn’t come self-identified. It doesn’t announce itself as “pain”. The label comes from a thought, which, again, is not direct experience of the pain. So even the “pain” is not “pain” in direct experience. It surely seems like something, but any particular thing always depends on an attribution by thought.

5. Is the pain separate from witnessing awareness ? This is more subtle. Is the pain something you experience as apart from pure awareness ? Is it something pre-existing that awareness just happens to discover ? Do you have some way of experiencing the pain that does not involve witnessing awareness at all ? That is how you would be able to apprehend the pain in-it-self to prove that witnessing awareness grasps it.

Another way to think about this is by analogy. You know how we normally think about physical objects. Before we began our inquiry, we probably thought that physical objects are completely independent of perception and awareness. They seem not to need our perception in order to exist. So, is the pain like this ? For example, let’s consider a house cat that you see in one room and then another. The cat ( we usually think ) can be present sometimes and absent sometimes ( because it is present somewhere else). We normally think the cat exists even if it is not presently experienced.

But is the pain like this? Is the pain ever experienced as existing outside awareness ? In other words, is the pain ever experienced as a separate, independent
thing that experience discovers ? In other words, do you ever have direct experience of pain when witnessing awareness is absent ?

6. Is it really true that pain should not occur ? The subjunctive form ” should” is used in evaluations and normative statements. ” You should call your mother.” or ” I should have a better life.” But other than an evaluative claim and its attendant concepts and standards, where does this ” should ” come from ? Is there anything in the pain itself that communicates an evaluation ? Even though we may prefer to have our dentistry with anesthesia rather than without, and believe a painless procedure better than a painful one, is it the pain itself that communicates this preferentiality ? Or is the preferentiality a belief ?

Another way to look at it is this – it’s not always the case that we want to be pain-free. Consider being a cyclist trying to climb hills faster. The muscles and lungs seem to burn ! Athletes use the information from this pain as an indication that more training is needed. Pain can be a valuable signal, and not everyone wants to wish it out of existence. SO is there anything in the direct experience of this burning sensation that establishes that, right here, right now, it should not occur ?

7. Is the pain anything other than awareness ? This is a continuation of (5). Try as much as you can – can you come up with any experience in which pain is present, but witnessing awareness is not present for the pain to appear to ? Whenever pain is, awareness is there. Whenever pain is not, awareness is still there. Awareness is the only experienced common factor, whether the pain is arising or not. This means that there is nothing in the direct experience of pain other than awareness.

Edited to fit blog format.

Many thanks to Greg Goode for this excerpt from his book THE DIRECT PATH : A User Guide, ps. 89 – 91 The book may be found here:

The photo is from here : Thanks to Fred Bluefox for this excellent photo !



  • This page is a work in progress, and will be updated as new links and information appear.
  • The contents of this page are presented as observations and opinions which may provide a starting point for further investigation for readers inclined to investigate so they may look and see for themselves whether they find benefit or even utility in whatever they find.
  • The subject material pertains to attention and perception; elements common to all of human experience, including meditation and physical pain.
  • The author is not a medical professional and does not provide medical advice to anyone in any way whatsoever. Please consult a medical professional for medical advice.


Header image from here.

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Tagged: Pain, Pain meditation, Meditation, Pain Perception, Living with Pain, Working with Pain, Pain Level, Breakthrough Pain, Acute Pain, Chronic Pain

5 Responses to Physical Pain

  1. My experience is similar to that of Watts and Jonzon. It is an interesting area of investigation. BTW, the links to Shinzen’s articles return a ‘page not found’message.
    ~ Paul

  2. anda says:

    This is valuable information. Thanks for taking the time to research!

  3. Sean Ewing says:

    thanx,have chronic pain due to destroyed knee.Have moved through several stages regarding both pain and suffering.Agree with much of the above.Usually people have a mixture of suffering(poor me),thoughts about pain(which are painfull to think;-),and physical sensation of pain also.Integrating the mental and physical aspects does bring change.Breathing into the pain is old advice and good advice.Usually i find,that with the correct enviroment i can accept pain to the point it goes..or i feel very sleepy/relaxed or even sleep.If you can get to a place where you are welcoming the pain as an opportunity to practice Tonglen or a similar meditation on impermanence,interconnection and compassion then never will a physicqal pain be a negative issue again:-)

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