Pain is a Teacher, sometimes a very tough teacher, but effective. Pain is an Ever-present Guide, whether physical, mental, or emotional, big or small—it offers many lessons if we are willing to learn from it. Since I had enjoyed good health prior to 2001, I was looking for a theme to what seemed to be random failures of the body. The theme emerged as, Pain as Teacher.
Pain teaches me, repeatedly, that it is made up of individual sensations. If the sensations are clumped together, they become unbearable, overwhelming, well, painful. If they are experienced as individual sensations, they break up into more manageable waves. For me, there are two main steps in working with pain. First, is to Be as fully present to each sensation as possible, to accept it, to pour focus into it. To acknowledge what is, not to deny pain in any way. This is Be-ing. The next task is to ride those waves of sensation into Stillness. Of course, no one wants to be in pain, this is where our preferences of how we think things ought to be, are released. Step two is the act of Surrendering. Surrender and Be. In some of the most pain-filled moments, Pain Teacher shows up and teaches me to pray from a pool of stillness—to experience Self as not this, not this. (not the pain, not the body, not the mind.)
The past eight years, have been undeniably challenging, unimaginably physically painful, disruptive, frustrating and isolating at times. The gifts within those same subjective experiences are rich beyond description and as I write this I find a smile spreading across my face. I would not be smiling, nor experiencing the richness, were it not for the teachings and teachers of the Himalayan Tradition and Grace that flows.
May there be some value in reading how a even beginning meditator can reduce the experience of pain through the practical application of meditative technique and increase satisfaction on the spiritual journey, simultaneously.
May you always surrender and never give up,
Veena met Swami Veda in 1985. She lived at his Ashram in Minneapolis on two occasions. It is there she married her husband, Jon, 20 years ago. She has served on the Board of Directors of The Meditation Center (https://www.themeditationcenter.org/jnana/index.php?} for the last eight years, the last few as President. She currently resides in Minnesota with Jon and their son, Kai.
Regarding the evolution of this article of her reflections about living with pain, Veena writes the following explanation.
"I was asked, more than once, and by more than one person, to write about my experiences with pain for the Meditation and Pain Management Conference. I was surprised each time and wondered, 'Why are they asking me, what do I know about this topic?' I had not viewed the past eight years of one of pain, though objectively speaking there have been three major medical events, multiple surgeries, and a couple close scrapes with death. Our son was born seven years ago, so the adventures of the body all took place while simultaneously raising a child-the duties of which add to the challenge, the joys of which sustained me.
"I came to objectively recognize these years as pain-filled. However, subjectively, they are something quite different to me. Reflecting on these experiences, there was simply too much to write. So, I meditated, entered stillness and listened for the essence of those experiences. The haiku Pain-Teacher manifested and this is what I submitted to the conference organizers as my 'article on pain.'"