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Opening to Pain


Find a position in which you can remain comfortable and quiet for a few minutes.

Bring into your awareness a thought or a bodily sensation that is unpleasant to you. Perhaps it may be an image or a memory, a physical pain or ache. Choose only one.

Let your attention settle around this thought or sensation.

Allow yourself to be with your discomfort.

Bring your attention ever more intimately to bear on the thought or sensation.

Feel the way in which your mind or body tends to push against the unpleasantness, to close it off.

Feel in your mind or in your body both the pain and the resistance against the pain: both present... yet separate from one another.

Notice your tendency to want to identify with the resistance and to deny or isolate or push away the pain.

But instead of reactively pushing the painful thought or sensation away, stay with it... gently but firmly.

Now start to loosen the ring of resistance that surrounds the painful thought or sensation, loosening its hold in the same way you might allow a fist to open.

Consider the possibility that the resistance to the pain may be more painful than the pain itself. Notice how the resistance closes your heart and fills your body and mind with tension and dis-ease.

Keep relaxing the resistance... the tightness... that have accumulated around the pain.

Notice any fear that has developed around this unpleasant thought or sensation. Allow the fear to melt... to dissolve... along with the resistance... softening... opening... releasing...

Let the painful thought or sensation float free... no longer held in the grip of resistance.

Keep letting go of any resistance that tries to smother the experience. Allow the unpleasant thoughts or sensations to come fully into consciousness. No holding... no pushing away... just floating free...

All grasping relinquished. Just the thought or sensation, and the awareness of it... together... moment to moment.

See that the unpleasant thought is just a thought.. the painful sensation is just a sensation... just that... nothing more...

Softening... opening... releasing... allowing... again and again... until there is just thought... just sensation...

And it keeps changing... from moment to moment... it always keeps changing...

Soft... open... gentle... allowing... floating free...


(From: Ram Dass, How Can I Help, 1985, pp. 81-82) adapted from Who Dies, by Stephen Levine
Here's a version of Opening to Pain you can download:

Download 10-Opening_To_Pain.txt