What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size. – Carl Jung
There are so many mental techniques for physical pain relief. Indeed, our mind has proven to be powerful enough to cope with any pain. The question is which technique we should use in our struggle to overcome suffering.
You can find on the internet so many methods. Some of them work for some people, but for others, they don’t.
However, it’s important to know that methods which involve any kind of ignoring or suppressing a painful sensation can work temporarily, but they fail in the long run and can bring about its frequent reappearance with even increased intensity. The reason is suppression. Anything we suppress will re-emerge one day. So, the suppression is the cause of pain’s reappearance.
Methods which involve any kind of ignoring or suppressing a painful sensation can work temporarily, but they fail in the long run.
And the real cause of pain is our resistance to that particular sensation. So, we must accept it.
Therefore, effective pain relief techniques must have two aspects: facing the pain and accepting it.
Five Exceptional Techniques
Here I’ll describe five techniques that have been proven to be really helpful to me and to many other people as well. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean they work for everyone. Also, you should always consult your physician.
Before and after applying any of these techniques, it is highly recommended that you quantify the intensity of your pain on a zero-to-ten scale. By doing this way, the change will become obvious and measurable, you’ll much easier accept the true power of these approaches, and your subsequent practice will get strengthened and deepened.
Before and after applying any of these techniques, quantify the intensity of your pain on a zero-to-ten scale.
1. Dissolving the Temporary I
As one of the basic Reintegration techniques, the Dissolving the Temporary I (DTI) is a powerful method for integration or removal the unwanted emotions, thoughts and sensations. As physical pain is typically considered to be a sort of bodily sensation, this technique, if applied correctly, is extremely effective for this purpose.
The technique is based on the relationship between the subject (our transient sense of self, of the “Temporary I”), and the object (in this case, the pain). The core concept is quite simple, and it works perfectly: if your transitory “I” disappears, so will do the object you were experiencing.
To learn this 5-step technique, you will have to do some introduction exercises first, but it’s definitely worth the effort. Here you can find the detailed instruction for learning the method.
If your transitory “I” disappears, so will do the object you were experiencing.
2. All-Inclusive Attention
The concept of “open focus” or “diffuse attention” was thoroughly researched and developed by American neuroscientist Les Fehmi.
Normally, our focus is too narrow as we are trying all the time to concentrate on only one thing, missing everything else. We are typically “lost” in anything we do – in thoughts, emotions, conversations, sensual pleasures, anxiety, fear, and so on. It is an involuntary process, a habit of trying to focus on a single object as though we are continually in the living conditions that demand our “fight-or-flight” mode of functioning, which leads us to a constant accumulation of stress and subsequent suffering.
 Fehmi, Les. The Open-Focus Brain: Harnessing the Power of Attention to Heal Mind and Body. Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.
Normally, our focus is too narrow as we are trying all the time to concentrate on only one thing, missing everything else. We are typically “lost” in anything we do.
We should definitely change this habit, not only to release stress and overcome pain but to the benefit of all aspects of our lives.
First, we should learn how to extend and diffuse our attention. Here’s how:
Open your eyes (if they are closed), look at the wall in front of you and pick up one distinctive point on it. (This we will call the ‘physical attention,’ as opposed to ‘mental attention,’ which means to focus your mind externally or internally on something.) Concentrate on that point for 15-30 seconds. If any thought arises, just accept it and return your physical and mental attention to the point on the wall.
Then, while keeping your eyes fixated on the point, extend your mental attention to a circular area around the point. Gradually extend the area of your mental attention more and more, while keeping your physical attention at the chosen point.
Wander around the room for a while with your mental attention. If your eyes unintentionally move, simply return them to the first point of the physical attention, and continue with the other parts of your eyesight, that are preferably more away from the physical point of attention.
You may even try to become aware of the things behind your physical eyesight or to include sounds and other sensations.
After several minutes of shifting your mental attention around, try to immerse yourself into a unified attention - be mentally attentive of your physical point and everything else, including yourself.
Now, after some initial practice of the all-inclusive attention, you will be able to do the pain removal process.
First of all, you need to locate the small area within your body that represents the pain. Even if your pain is all-encompassing, permeating your whole body, you should first pick up one part of it where the painful sensation is most intense.
Next, concentrate on the most painful area. Let it be your starting point for the similar process of extending the attention, as described above. This time, include into your awareness not only the whole visual area, but also all sounds you are hearing, all other sensations you are sensing at the moment, everything else you might be experiencing, and space which is behind all of that.
Notice that your pain is only a small portion of your whole experience now. Allow it to spread, diffuse and dissipate into your wide field of attention, to merge with your whole experience, awareness, and space beneath everything. It will dissolve.
Do this for about 30 seconds to one minute. Repeat the process from the beginning (locating and concentrating on the pain, then diffusing it through all-inclusive attention), as long as there are any traces of the pain.
3. Accepting and Dwelling in Pain
This is a straightforward and also very effective way of coping with pain. It is based on the fact that everything we resist, persists. Even more, it’ll grow up over time. Therefore, the remedy is to accept it completely. And that is not only applicable to physical pain but to virtually anything in our lives. Whenever we completely and honestly accept any thought, emotion or sensation, we become free of it. It will not bother us anymore. We have learned that lesson.
Thinking is only a small aspect of consciousness. Thought cannot exist without consciousness, but consciousness does not need thought. ― Eckhart Tolle
Thoughts are mysterious and elusive entities which so frequently appear in our heads that they are considered to be an essential part of our identity. Moreover, we are so identified with them that many of us have completely accepted the famous quote by Descartes: I think, therefore I am.
But that is not true.
Our true nature is not determined by thoughts. In fact, they obscure it, as clouds obscure the Sun.
It’s unquestionable that the practical value of thoughts in our lives is immense. Their role in analyzing and structuring a huge stream of data flowing into our minds is indispensable. Their power of generalization and abstract contemplation, of ‘seeing the wood despite the trees,’ is also of utmost importance to us. The mankind has made great advances in science and technology, and, of course, that wouldn’t be possible without the thinking process.
Thinking is one of the essential stages of our spiritual evolution. In the first phase, conscious beings are thoughtless, enjoying the calmness of pure presence in the Now. They are partially conscious of their surroundings, but they are not conscious of themselves. Such beings are animals, for example. In the next phase, thanks to the thinking process, conscious beings are able to become self-aware and to intentionally expand their consciousness. In the final stage, they become thoughtless again, because they don’t need thoughts anymore. They don’t need to analyze or generalize, as they simply know. The subject and the object, the inner and the outer reality merge, and they don’t need any intermediary between them.
Are Thoughts Obstacles to Spiritual Enlightenment?
Therefore, if we want to achieve the final spiritual awakening and inner freedom, we should transcend thoughts. Or at least some spiritual traditions teach us so. Accordingly, the main question related to our spiritual growth could be: what to do with thoughts in our practice? Or, should they be considered as obstacles to spiritual enlightenment?
 A similar thing can be said for emotions, but they are not within the scope of this article. However, emotions can also be regarded as the ‘thoughts of our body,’ so they can be dealt with in like manner.
If we want to achieve the final spiritual awakening and inner freedom, we should transcend thoughts.
So…let’s say we are meditating. Perhaps we are simply trying to focus on our awareness. Or we are concentrating upon a candle, or praying, or doing a mantra meditation. Maybe we are trying to consciously breathe. Or doing loving-kindness meditation. No matter which kind of spiritual practice we are engaged in, we will be repeatedly and inevitably dealing with some distractive thoughts. We’ll get immersed in them, each time, until we become aware of the fact that our practice has actually been interrupted.
It seems that thoughts are obstacles to a smooth spiritual practice. Are they really? Should we be fighting them?
No matter which kind of spiritual practice we are engaged in, we will be repeatedly and inevitably dealing with some distractive thoughts.
Ways of Dealing with Thoughts in Meditation
The vast majority of meditative techniques all around the world deal with apparently distracting thoughts in these ways:
During our mindfulness practice, we are trying to consciously experience the present moment. Our mind is calm as we stay fully conscious of our breathing, of each movement of our body, of visual textures and patterns in the surrounding, of sounds, tastes, smells or anything else that is entering our senses.
However, when a thought or emotion arises, our mindfulness practice essentially breaks down. We get immersed in the thought and completely forget to be consciously present. Only when we become aware that we’ve forgotten to be mindful, then we are able to accept the thought and return to the present moment.
But is this a right approach? Thoughts are coming back again and again. Just when we think we succeeded to calm down our mind for several minutes, hours or even months, and have entered a state of deep and apparently irreversible inner peace, a surge of thoughts, emotions and other mind content rushes into our being and destroys our peace completely.
Aren’t we subtly suppressing our thoughts and emotions by simply ignoring or acknowledging them before returning to the present moment? It seems so, as everything we suppress must emerge again, sooner or later. That’s the case with thoughts and emotions, too.
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