When pain or distress arises in our bodies, our conditioned reaction is to pin it down and solidify it with concepts. We say “my knee,” “my back,” “my illness,” and the floodgates of apprehension are opened. We predict a dire future for ourselves, fear the intensification of the pain, and at times dissolve into helplessness and despair. Our concepts serve both to make the pain more rigid and to undermine our capacity to respond to it skillfully. We are caught in the tension of wanting to divorce ourselves from a distressed body while the intensity of pain keeps drawing us back into our body. Meditation offers a very different way of responding to pain in our bodies. Instead of employing strategies to avoid it, we learn to investigate what is actually being experienced within our bodies calmly and curiously. We can bring a compassionate, accepting attention directly to the core of pain. This is the first step towards healing and releasing the agitation and dread that often intensify pain.
Christine Feldman, Suffering is Optional