What is physical pain to you? Is it uncomfortable? Is it annoying when it persists? Is it unbearable at times? Perhaps all of the above. Working with my students on Mindfulness practices we often talk about getting to know all of your pains including physical, emotional, financial, with relationships, etc. Often due to our mental resistance it makes it hard to see where the actual pain is. For example, one student talked about experiencing vertigo for weeks and weeks. She described her week as “lousy” when I asked the class, “How did your week go?” “Lousy,” one word. When I inquired why? She explained that she’s been having this vertigo for so long now, that it does not want to go away, that she has tried so many things and was tired of it already. That it made her life very difficult. Understandably so. I asked, where is the pain? She pointed to her ears and head and said, “It’s everywhere.” “It’s everywhere?” I asked. You just pointed to your head but said, “It’s everywhere!” Which is it? Everywhere, or in your head? She, paused a bit and said, “Well, Of course, it’s in my head, but I just don’t like it. It is making me miserable.”

I continued asking, so what else is there? Any emotional pains with it? “Yes,” she replied and continued explaining how annoyed she was and how impatient she feels about it. “OK, then, there also is emotional pain,” I replied. What else? “I guess also negative thoughts of judgment and always complaining about it in my head or to others.” “OK, then there also is mental resistance that goes with this. Trying to push it away, not allow it to be here, thinking if I hate it, resist it hopefully it would disappear.” She was adding to the amount of difficulty the vertigo had. She started to see the big picture, we are shooting ourselves with arrows that our causing our own suffering. In her case, second and third arrows became vaguely obvious.

The vertigo on its own is the first arrow she’s been shot with, which is not of her own doing. Then by feeling annoyed and impatient she shoots her own self with a second arrow. Continuing to complain, resist and being in conflict with it causes extra tension, there goes the third arrow she shoots herself with. Now, this is not to imply that we have to just hands down accept what comes at us and be passive in our lives. She actually described that she has been doing everything she could possibly think of, going to doctors, acupuncture, herbal medicine, you name it she tried and it just would not go away. We then discussed how she possibly could be prolonging or intensifying this discomfort by being so focused on it. That the wanting to get rid of it she was actually attached to it. Whatever we hang on to cannot pass.

With loving kindness,
Dr. Manijeh Motaghy