Meditation for Pain via Ven.Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Another technique is to breathe through the pain. If you can become sensitive to the breath sensations that course through the body each time you breathe, you will notice that you tend to build a tense shell around the pain, where the energy in the body doesn’t flow freely. This, although it’s a kind of avoidance technique, actually increases the pain. So think of the breath flowing right through the pain as you breathe in and out, to dissolve away this shell of tension. In most cases, you will find that this can relieve the pain considerably. For instance, when I had malaria, I found this very useful in relieving the mass of tension that would gather in my head and shoulders. At times it would get so great that I could scarcely breath, so I just thought of the breath coming in through all the nerve centers in my body the middle of the chest, the throat, the middle of the forehead and so forth and the tension would dissolve away. However, there are some people though who find that breathing through the pain increases the pain, which is a sign that they are focusing improperly. The solution in that case is to focus on the opposite side of the body. In other words, if the pain is in the right side, focus on the left. If it’s in front, focus on the back. If it’s in your head literally focus on your hands and feet. (This technique works particularly well with migraine, by the way: If, for example, your migraine is on the right side, focus on the breath sensations on the left side of your body, from the neck on down.)

As your powers of concentration become stronger and more settled, you can begin analyzing the pain. The first step is to divide it into its physical and mental components. Distinguish between the actual physical pain, and the mental pain that comes along with it: The sense of being persecuted justly or unjustly the fear that the pain may grow stronger or signal the end, whatever. Then remind yourself that you don’t have to side with those thoughts. If the mind is going to think them, you don’t have to fall in with them. Then, when you stop feeding them, you’ll find that after a while they’ll begin to go away, just like a crazy person coming to talk with you. If you talk with the crazy person, after a while you’ll go crazy too. If however, you let the crazy person chatter away, but don’t join in the conversation, after a while the crazy person will leave you alone. It’s the same with all the garbage thoughts in your mind. [read the rest]