Pain, of course, is an unwelcome sensation in the majority of situations.
However – as we shall see – there are some situations associated with certain religious rites where it is – if not actually encouraged – at least embraced as part of a ritual.
In this section we will be looking at this, but also at the use of meditation as a tool to help control it in day-to-day life,
… and there is much more about that aspect in the Guided Meditation on Pain section. (Click on the name to go there).
Right at the beginning of this website, in the ‘Introduction’ section, I mentioned that one of the reasons for my interest in meditation was because of an Anesthesiologist who was studying it as a tool to reduce the need for medications.
Every evening he would try to find two patients,
… who were roughly the same age,
… were on separate wards in the Hospital,
… and who were both having the same operation the next day.
Then, as part of his pre-operative check-up (that all Surgery patients got), he would teach a simple but effective meditation method to only One of these two patients –
… and instruct that patient to repeat the meditation whenever he/she felt pain after the operation, and also to repeat it at least once, immediately before the operation.
The next day, the day of the two identical operations, he would carefully document the amount and strength of the anesthetics required by each patient at the actual operations themselves.-
… and the amount and frequency of pain medications needed and received by each after the operations, (according to the records kept by the nurses.)
When I first started working with him, he had been doing this for about six months, and an obvious pattern was beginning to be seen.
It was very clear that almost without exception, those patients who had been using meditation on a regular basis over these few days-
– had required on average only about half of the amounts of pain killer medication that the non-meditators had needed!
It was that exactly that started my interest
– the difference between the amounts of medication needed by the two groups was too dramatic and consistent to ignore.
The other thing that he had found was, –
… that it seemed to him that the meditating patients had required less Anesthetic during the actual operations themselves.
However this was a much more difficult thing to measure and to be accurate about – however, working with him for six months – I also agreed with his impression.
I think what we can say from this therefore is; –
… meditation can be used to lower the need for pain medication in any situation where it is present.
(Check out the Guided Meditation on Pain to see how you can use meditation yourself in this way).
Several religions or belief systems around the world use some form of meditation that allows them to take part in ceremonies that involve pain in one form or another.
One good example of this is the Sundance Ceremony as is still practiced by some tribes of North American Indians.
The ceremony includes the person being initiated having the muscles – and/or tendons of the muscles – of his chest, being anchored by strips of wood pushed behind the muscles or tendons.
Then these strips of wood are connected to a rope of rawhide and tied to a pole as in the drawing above.
The warrior is then left almost hanging from the cord for a varying length of time –
… often in the hot sun –
… and sometimes until the strip of wood tears out of the muscle !
What is allowing him to persevere in this, is basically two things –
Firstly – his unshakable faith in the tribal customs and beliefs,
and Secondly – a state similar to meditation that was helped by the rhythmic chanting and drumming of the other ceremony members,
… (without which it is probably unlikely that he would have been able to complete the ceremony).
In a similar way, several Hindu systems use body piercing to control pain during certain festivals.
I am sure that you have seen many photos like this one,
… showing people in these festivals with hooks, spears or other metal objects stuck into
– (and sometimes right through),
– various parts of their body.
Again, they are using some form of meditation, usually a meditation on the particular Hindu God that they are worshiping,
… in order to be able to do this without any apparent feeling of pain at all.
Frequently one can see an expression of religious ‘bliss’ on their faces, which underlines the power of meditation in this situation.
Yet another similar use of meditation to control pain within the context of ceremonies – is the fairly worldwide practice of Firewalking.
Here the people participating in the ceremony walk, or sometimes run, over hot coals – usually charcoal.
This ritual pain-by-fire is performed by many different societies, both religious and non-religious.
It is seen in Asia, (especially in India and Indonesia and Sri Lanka), in Africa, and even in North America – from where this photo originates.
Once again, there is usually a preparation period of meditation and/or prayer before the actual Firewalking.
To me it is very interesting to see that although the devotees of the particular society –
… who have performed their meditations and prayers, rarely get any signs of being burned on their feet –
…others (usually curious Westerner onlookers), who try it, often get severe burns !
I can give you an example of pain control by meditation from my own experience.
About 35 years ago, I was studying and learning from a North American Indian Medicine Man.
One day we started talking about the Sundance and so on, and the types of trance and meditations that were used in this pain control type of thing.
He proposed that I give a demonstration to myself !
To begin with I was a bit nervous about what he had in mind, but as it turned out, all was fine !
He had me sit in a relaxed way, and ‘talked me through’ an Indian meditation about –
… loving ones own body –
… having respect for it –
… allowing no harm to come to it –
… and the separation of the mind and the body.
Then he handed me a lighted cigarette and told me to put it firmly on the skin of my left forearm – while all the time staying in the same mental ‘space’, and just observing what was happening.
So I did !
It stunned me to see the tip of the cigarette against my skin, with the skin sizzling below, the sound of the sizzling, and the smell like burned meat,
—but above all what stunned me the most was that there was no pain whatsoever !!
What also surprised me was that it healed up much much quicker than most burns.
… (and remember, I was a Physician, so I had a lot of experience with burns).
All that remains today, as a reminder, is a small circular white scar!
I am NOT going to suggest that we get into any pain type meditation for you to feel, as I think that the examples we have talked about above are probably enough for you to ‘get the message’ – without the need for you to feel pain yourself.
On the other hand……..nah ! just joking !!
Now we have come to the last of the Active Meditation types, and will now move on to the Passive Meditations.
There you will find many more meditation kinds that you can personally try out.
Click to go to Yoga and meditation – Active meditation 1
Click to go to Martial Arts and meditation – Active meditation 2
Click to go to Dance and meditation – Active meditation 3
Click to go to Buddhism – Passive meditation 1
Click to go to Tibetan Buddhism and Tantra – Passive meditation 2
Click to go to Zen meditation- Passive meditation 3
Click to go to Jainism and meditation – Passive meditation 4
Click to go to Other Religions and meditation – Passive meditation 5
Click to go to Mantra meditation – Passive meditation 6
Click to go to Mandalas and Yantras – Passive meditation 7
Click to go to Tai Chi and Chi Gung – In Between meditation 1
Click to go to Taoism – In Between meditation 2
Click to go to Sounds and meditation – Sounds 1