Attending to pleasure in pain/tension: good idea?

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Attending to pleasure in pain/tension: good idea?

Postby fivebells » Sun Apr 07, 2013 2:09 pm

I've been getting a lot of mileage out of the "breath energy manipulation" approach to anapanasati presented by Thanissaro. Roughly speaking, this involves finding an aspect of the experience of breathing which is comfortable and pleasant, and spreading that pleasant feeling to other parts of experience, particularly tense/unpleasant parts.

I've also been thinking a lot about the Satta Sutta and its statement that one is a "being" to the extent that one is caught up in craving, etc. for the five skandhas. I've been thinking that by this criterion, any suffering is in and of itself a being, since it is caught up in such craving.

This is changing the way I read a lot of suttas which are ostensibly concerned with interpersonal interactions. For instance, this gloss by Thanissaro:

If you see someone who's been really nasty to you in his words and deeds but has moments of honesty and goodwill, it's as if you're walking through a desert — hot, trembling, thirsty — and you come across a cow footprint with a little bit of water in it. Now what do you do? You can't scoop the water up with your hand because that would muddy it. Instead you get down on your hands and knees, and very carefully slurp it up.


I've been approaching pain and tension in this way in meditation. Instead of looking for pleasure/comfort elsewhere in the body, I look for tiny instances of it in the areas associated with the pain/tension. I focus on those tiny instances in the inbreath, then spread them through the region on the outbreath.

This is producing fairly remarkable results, almost immediate release of the suffering, and very pleasant, even rapturous experiences. It's pretty unconventional, though, and sometimes it borders on, but does not quite enter into, masochism. Does it sound harmful in any way?
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Re: Attending to pleasure in pain/tension: good idea?

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Apr 07, 2013 2:27 pm

fivebells wrote:I've also been thinking a lot about the Satta Sutta and its statement that one is a "being" to the extent that one is caught up in craving, etc. for the five skandhas. I've been thinking that by this criterion, any suffering is in and of itself a being, since it is caught up in such craving.

I have a craving for ice-cream. does icecream become a being?

is it caught up in craving, or is it the object of craving of which you are caught up?

This is changing the way I read a lot of suttas which are ostensibly concerned with interpersonal interactions. For instance, this gloss by Thanissaro:

If you see someone who's been really nasty to you in his words and deeds but has moments of honesty and goodwill, it's as if you're walking through a desert — hot, trembling, thirsty — and you come across a cow footprint with a little bit of water in it. Now what do you do? You can't scoop the water up with your hand because that would muddy it. Instead you get down on your hands and knees, and very carefully slurp it up.


I've been approaching pain and tension in this way in meditation. Instead of looking for pleasure/comfort elsewhere in the body, I look for tiny instances of it in the areas associated with the pain/tension. I focus on those tiny instances in the inbreath, then spread them through the region on the outbreath.

This is producing fairly remarkable results, almost immediate release of the suffering, and very pleasant, even rapturous experiences. It's pretty unconventional, though, and sometimes it borders on, but does not quite enter into, masochism. Does it sound harmful in any way?

it sound more like you are looking for moments of release rather than pleasure specifically. but it is hard to tell.
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Re: Attending to pleasure in pain/tension: good idea?

Postby daverupa » Sun Apr 07, 2013 3:32 pm

Perhaps observe arising and ceasing?

SN 36.7 wrote:"...Sensing a feeling of pain, he discerns that it is inconstant, not grasped at, not relished. ...he senses it disjoined from it... When sensing a feeling limited to the body, he discerns that 'I am sensing a feeling limited to the body.' When sensing a feeling limited to life, he discerns that 'I am sensing a feeling limited to life.' He discerns that 'With the break-up of the body, after the termination of life, all that is sensed, not being relished, will grow cold right here.'
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Attending to pleasure in pain/tension: good idea?

Postby fivebells » Sun Apr 07, 2013 4:59 pm

Cittasanto wrote:it sound more like you are looking for moments of release rather than pleasure specifically. but it is hard to tell.


Yes, I'm mostly interested in the release. The pleasure is a tool to that end.

daverupa wrote:Perhaps observe arising and ceasing?


Yes, that's a critical part of what I'm doing.

I feel like we're "talking past" each other, though. Not sure where these questions are leading.
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Re: Attending to pleasure in pain/tension: good idea?

Postby Samma » Sun Apr 07, 2013 5:37 pm

Could you say more about how you find the pleasure in a pain/tension?
And how is this masochism?

Everyone finds their own ways of dealing with pain eventually.
Ask yourself, is this a skillful perception or unskillful?
The important thing is learning to question how you perceive your relationship to the pain. On the one hand, if you keep questioning the pain, you don’t let yourself fall into the perception of being its passive victim. You’re taking a more active role, as the doer, not letting things take their old, accustomed course. This in itself gives you a measure of independence from the pain. On the other hand, you’ll learn that if you apply unskillful perceptions to the pain, they create a bridge into the mind so that the mind feels mental pain—impatience, irritation, worry—over the physical pain.But if you can learn to drop those perceptions, either by replacing them with more skillful perceptions, or by dropping—as soon as you sense them—all perceptions that develop around the pain, the bridge is cut. The mind can be perfectly fine, even when the body is in pain. This is an important stage in developing insight. (Thanissaro, Each and Every Breath, p. 43)
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Re: Attending to pleasure in pain/tension: good idea?

Postby fivebells » Sun Apr 07, 2013 6:18 pm

Samma wrote:Could you say more about how you find the pleasure in a pain/tension?


I look very closely at the physical region where it's arising. It's kind of like a localized, very precise, body scan.

Samma wrote:And how is this masochism?


For instance, yesterday right after a session of doing this, something mildly physically threatening happened, and it went on long enough that I was able to follow this practice with the resulting tension. The anxiety turned into a kind of rapturous exhiliration. It's not masochism in the sense of seeking out pain for the sake of pleasure, but it's close in the sense that it is finding pleasure mixed up in something painful.

Samma wrote:Everyone finds their own ways of dealing with pain eventually.
Ask yourself, is this a skillful perception or unskillful?


I am pretty confident that it's skillful, but it is quite unconventional, and the physical threat -> exhiliration thing is disturbing even though it's not causing me to do anything stupid. I asked here because I was hopeful for feedback from more experienced/wise people than me.
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Re: Attending to pleasure in pain/tension: good idea?

Postby SarathW » Sun Apr 07, 2013 11:44 pm

Hi Fivebells
I do not discriminate between pain and pleasure. When it is pleasurable feeling I know it is pleasurable. When it is pain I know it is pain.
I just observe the phenomena. :)
Please read attached link for one of my personal experience.

viewtopic.php?f=22&t=16532
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Re: Attending to pleasure in pain/tension: good idea?

Postby fivebells » Mon Apr 08, 2013 12:00 am

Excellent practice, SarathW. I am finding pleasure to be a useful tool in maintaining concentration. Hopefully one day my concentration will be as stable as yours.
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Re: Attending to pleasure in pain/tension: good idea?

Postby SarathW » Mon Apr 08, 2013 12:28 am

Sorry I forgot to include the term Equanimity. :)
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Re: Attending to pleasure in pain/tension: good idea?

Postby Samma » Tue Apr 09, 2013 8:02 pm

As Thanissaro wrote, "There’s a lot to explore in this area, and it’s something that each person has to learn for him or herself, as we each have idiosyncratic ways of relating to the breath currents and the pains in the body."

Sounds like you are spreading pleasant feelings like Thanssiaro says, but on a micro scale, see step 4 in Each and Every Breath. Note steps 5-6 are about a broad fully body awareness.

The only thing that comes to mind that might be related to something harmful is seeing something painful/stressful as pleasant. That would be masochism right, but it does not seem you are doing that.
"Monks, there are these four perversions of perception, perversions of mind, previsions of view. Which four? 'Constant' with regard to the inconstant is a perversion of perception, a perversion of mind, a perversion of view. 'Pleasant' with regard to the stressful...'Self' with regard to not-self....'Attractive' with regard to the unattractive is a perversion of perception, a perversion of mind, a perversion of view." An 4.49
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Re: Attending to pleasure in pain/tension: good idea?

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Apr 10, 2013 8:54 am

fivebells wrote:I've been getting a lot of mileage out of the "breath energy manipulation" approach to anapanasati presented by Thanissaro. Roughly speaking, this involves finding an aspect of the experience of breathing which is comfortable and pleasant, and spreading that pleasant feeling to other parts of experience, particularly tense/unpleasant parts.



I think this approach could be related to these sections from the 1st and 2nd tetrads of the Anapanasati Sutta:

He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'
He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to rapture.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to rapture.'
He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to pleasure.'
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Re: Attending to pleasure in pain/tension: good idea?

Postby Zenainder » Thu Jul 11, 2013 3:54 pm

Fivebells,

Have you considered that you are learning a alternate relationship with pain instead of your previous relationship? I think any time we learn there is an alternate perception to existence it can often times be exciting, but I'd only advise you to also observe the happiness and rapture rising as it will also cease (it may be connected to this new association). Definitely continue developing what you have!

P.S. - Side note, but useful for this discussion:
How does one skillfully decipher happiness, rapture, and serenity that the Buddha declared not to fear (if I am recalling the sutas correctly)?

Metta,

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