Pain, it’s only….

A friend of mine is really suffering at the moment, he has had an intense toothache for several days now and endured about 50 hours of continuous agony that overcame any non-prescription painkillers. Fortunately he reports it is easing now and he is able once again to eat some food and sleep a little. He is too far away for me to help in a direct way, so I sent him this experience of mine, below, in an email in the hope that it might help him to cope a bit better and get some rest. In the same spirit, I share it with you:

“This may sound weird to you but I’m passing it on because it enabled me to get a few hours sleep and pain reduction last year when I had a horrendous earache and some middle ear infection (eustachian tube blocked for a month too).
In the midst of the worst of it, about 2 or 3 am and unable to sleep since getting into bed around 9 pm, I just got up and did some intensive sitting meditation, concentrating on breathing, basic mindfulness stuff, allowing thoughts to pass through without latching onto them, especially those about how bad it was and how much I wanted to sleep.
From focusing my attention on breathing, I started really concentrating on the sensation of the pain, which was nagging, feverish and intense.
I found that by observing carefully the nature and intensity of the pain made it significantly less irritating and relentless; I began to notice how it changed from one moment to the next and was able, gradually, to experience it less as “pain” and more as a set of strong sensations.
I must have done this for about 15 or 20 minutes. At the end of it I felt surprisingly relaxed, much less irritated and irritable and the pain was less intense, tolerable in fact; I fell asleep for several hours.”

Caryatid figure with a rock

Rodin: Caryatid with a rock.