Pain too is optional

I had an an accident a week ago, broke my right ankle in three places, had a surgery, then another procedure, stayed in hospital for four days, etc. etc.

It has been a great opportunity to be more attentive (sati) in particular to the body moment by moment.
I have been using a lot Thanissaro Bhikkhu breathing into the body parts technique and discover that you can transform pain into sometimes pleasure but more often into just no-pain. So not only suffering (the second arrow) is optional but pain too!
In the past week I never experienced suffering; I experienced pain mainly on days two and three and then discomfort regularly. Again using TB breathing I can alleviate all that. The most important of course is not to be reactive to anything happening (inside and outside ourself) but welcoming it and dealing with it as best one can.

I agree with Ajahn Brahm that one can be in pain and still be happy. I’m also saying pain is optional.


Did you use pain killers?

Hi Alaber,

I hope you’re feeling better! At the 10th Global Conference on Buddhism yesterday, several neuroscientists discussed mindfulness with regards to physical pain, and their findings are absolutely fascinating. If you’re interested, here’s the link:


Hi SarathW1
I took them after the effect of anesthesia subsided on day 1, then the night of the day after as I could not maintain TB breathing/soothing exercise while trying to sleep. I didn’t take any since. Every time pain or rather discomfort (e.g. cast heaviness or itching) appears I use TB breathing into the body part.


Many thanks Brenna. Will have look with great interest.


I hope you are now recovering well.
Please read attached to see my experience without pain killers for about four to five weeks.
You need to sign up to read it.

I enjoyed reading the various contributions to your post including yours of course.

I discovered this very enlightening article on pain that confirms to me that pain is optional in the sense that if there is no need for action to alleviate it you can “inform” your mind-pain-center: you are over reacting. And that’s basically what TB breathing technique into the body does.

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Hi , I wonder why some arahant
ended their lives then if
pain is optional ?


Great question James. With pain there are many aspects to consider. In this case we are talking about physical pain (as Arahats they are not suffering). What are the type and intensity of it and what are the causes and conditions around it. The pain centre in the brain will produce or not pain according to all these factors, many of them being dependent on our own make-up and personal history and our ability, as I was/am doing, to “communicate” with the pain centre resulting in transforming the pain. One similar and very powerful method for pain management the Buddha was using was to practice Jhana.
These Arahats may not have developed the skill of pain management allowing them to wait peacefully for death, due to their cancer, to come. Arahats are not equal in every aspects. They all have eliminated the 10 fetters but their “personality” (without the bits associated with desires, aversions and delusions) remained.


BTW, how is your ankle ?
hope speedy recovery .
FYI , go see good Chinese
physician and take some
Chinese herbs if possible ,
to prevent side effects
or rheumatic problem
later part of it .

May you get well soon .

Thanks you James for your advise.
The casted ankle is doing well. I was lucky to have no swelling. Could be why I only had to breath into the pain for only two days.

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There are two possibilities.
They were not Arahants before they took the knife.
These Arahants were not developed Jhana.

This is a different topic altogether.

I had another episode of my ill health. I was just recovering from sickness for five days. I did not have a sleep for three days and did not eat for three days, (except some water and porridge)
I decided to practice my pain meditation during this painful times. I did not take any painkillers and I did not take leave from my work. (except some hours)
This is what I freshly discovered.

  • I started to analyse the pain in peace meal instead of as a block experience. I scanned the body from toe to the head and locate the area where the pain is coming from highest to the lowest. (say head pain under left eye is the highest)
  • Take the highest painful area and further investigate it and extend your loving kindness towards the pain, not the aversion. Then you come to the realisation the pain is coming not from the pain but from aversion.
  • This will help you to see the pain (not experience ) as a light. So You keep attention on the light. Say to yourself “it is the intense light” and enjoys the beauty of the light. It some times appears as morning sunlight.
    -The great thing about pain is, it is a great meditation object. It is so intense that your mind will not wonder anywhere else.
  • When you start to recover from your sickness, your monkey mind starts to wonder again. (Vitakka and Vicara)
  • Instead, you start the body scan again. Now you realise you are experiencing a bodily pleasant felling. (Sukha). Enjoy Sukha instead of Vitakka and Vicara.
  • Please share your pain meditation experience in this thread. It may be a help to many people who suffer from pain every day.

Interesting comment from Dhamma Wheel in regard to my experience mentioned above.

I’ve noticed that when there is a pain, there is also a tightening of the muscles in that area, or sometimes the whole body. This tightening makes the pain worse.
Relaxing the body or specifically the tightened area reduces the pain. Such relaxing can be done by imagining the breath energy how it runs evenly/smoothly through those tightened parts of the body, and breathing accordingly.
Ajahn Lee and Thanissaro Bhikkhu teach how to do that, for example.

This approach can be especially helpful for menstrual cramps. The regularity of the menstruation also gives repeated opportunity to test the effectiveness of this practice.

I created a simplified version of his method and use it at the beginning of every meditation to center and tranquilise the body. I return to it if I feel some tension/pain in part of the body and only for that part.
See attached:
12 steps for tranquilising the body.pdf (38.3 KB)


The following guided body scan meditation by jon Kapat-Zinn is a popular one on Youtube.

Dear Brenna
I watched it once but now the video is not available thru your link.

Any idea where I could access it today?

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Hi Alaber,

I think this link should do it:

With metta.

Many thanks Brenna.