Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:
So many people accuse the Buddha of being pessimistic: He starts his teachings with pain. And yet when you first sit and meditate, what do you find after the first five or ten minutes? Pain.
You can't avoid it. Or when people just can't sit by themselves, can't spend a whole day by themselves without busying themselves with this, that, or the other thing, what's the problem? It's mental pain, mental discomfort. These are things we live with all the time, and yet we think somehow that if people point them out, they're being pessimistic. Of course, the Buddha's purpose in pointing out pain and suffering wasn't just to stop right there, pointing them out and saying, "Isn't that horrible."
He says, "Look. There's a solution."
In fact, his approach to pain is extremely optimistic: Human beings can put an end to suffering, in this lifetime, through their own efforts.
So when we sit here, we have to anticipate
that there will be pain in sitting still. The reason we normally move around is because we encounter pain in a particular posture, so we change a little bit to get away from it. The Buddha's approach isn't to try to run away from it that way. He says, "Look into it."
This is why, when we start meditating, the Buddha doesn't have us focus immediately on the pain. He says to focus on the breath instead, because whatever pain is associated with the breath - and it tends to be subtle, but it is
there - is something you can manage, something you can deal with. He gives you the breath as your tool for dealing with the pain. So when you're aware of pain, don't yet let your primary focus be on the pain. Keep your focus on the breath
. In other words, get used to being acquainted with the breath first, because that's the person who'll introduce you to pain properly. It's like meeting any important person: You first have to get to know certain well-connected friends who can introduce you to that person. And that's the way it is with pain: You have to know the breath first, for it's your well-connected friend.
From: An Introduction to Pain
by Thanissaro Bhikkhu