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Can Meditation Help Relieve Pain? Chronic Pain?

A meditation spot at Wat Mahathat temple in Nakhon Si Thammarat in southern Thailand.

This is an email I sent to a reader requesting some information about whether my meditation books would be good to help him with some pain he was having. He didn’t mention whether the pain was chronic, but I addressed that in this note.

Meditation for pain relief is a long-term solution, but won’t provide relief from pain the short term. As your mind becomes more knowledgeable about pain and what it actually is, you can reach a state where it doesn’t bother you as much. The pain doesn’t stop, it is just handled by the mind differently.

Is Meditation Good for Pain Relief?

Hi (name removed), Thanks for writing! You asked a tough question. I imagine you’re writing because you have something that is causing pain fairly often.

Chronic pain relief is something meditation can provide to some degree, but read on to learn more about what I think about meditation and pain. Personally, I’ve experienced a profound change in the way I see pain after extensive meditation experience. I can say I’m probably not in the normal group.

When you meditate on pain it’s no different really than thinking about the pain you’re feeling, really feeling it and watching it in the mind. Closely, and relentlessly. It’s certainly no fun to watch pain in your mind, but as you do it, you’ll come to a level of detachment from the pain and it can become if not ‘fun’ then a challenge to see if you can keep watching it without feeling the pain, the fear of the pain, the anxiety of the pain.

What began to happen for me was that I started to see pain in a different way. It wasn’t so intolerable. It wasn’t so catastrophic. If you watch it closely for some minutes, tens of minutes, you’ll start to see the truth of it. It isn’t steady like you think it is. It wavers. It wavers for seconds or fractions of seconds, but pain is very rarely constant and without any brief respite at all.

I have felt pain like that – a box jellyfish sting and a stingray sting. All other pain I’ve ever felt was of this other variety – with ups and downs. Strong points and weaker. When you’re able to see the weak points, it makes the strong pulses more tolerable.

Eventually, and again, I don’t know if this happens for all people with extended practice of meditation and in particular, meditating on pain… but I now separate the pain from my head.

Meaning, that when I roll my ankle on the trail, something that hurts incredibly bad, if I stop for a second and remind myself that the pain is the foot’s pain and that in my head I don’t feel anything, then the pain remains in the foot. I shut it off, so to speak.

If you buy my book and do the meditation the way I outline, are you going to reach this point? I think eventually. Meditation can’t be considered a ‘quick fix’ for pain.

If you meditate on pain, or even sit and study the pain as it occurs – and try to learn about it as it is happening, you’ll come to some greater understanding of how to deal with it.

Hope this helps somewhat! I’ve never addressed the topic in my books to any great degree. I will add it to my second book – Meditation for Beginners – Secrets for Success during the next revision.

Thanks for your note!

Cheers (name removed), keep trying to find some relief!

Some people insist that various Buddhist monk pendants give them some relief from pain and discomfort. There is a large store that has a wide selection of items to choose from here – Thai Amulets Store.

I recently started offering brief meditation coaching sessions of 1 hour. If you’d like to talk about some aspect of your practice, have a read through here and see if it might be right for you.

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