Raw, adjective: 8. brutally harsh or unfair: a raw deal; receiving raw treatment from his friends.

Do you have creaky knees or an achy heart?

Does the pain in your left shoulder keep you from peeling open into Trikonasana, or does the damage from that ankle fracture ten years ago still haunt you when you try to rise up into Warrior 3?

Whether it's lingering pain of the physical or emotional kind doesn't matter so much. Either way, check out this powerful meditation on lovingkindness and pain from Vipassana teacher Gavin Harrison, who's been living with HIV since the late 1980s, and knows a thing or two about reconciling pain. Tricycle: The Buddhist Review featured this practice over the weekend, and I found it so powerful, so refreshingly friendly to the kind of pain that sets into the body -- or the spirit -- and won't seem to let up.

Harrison writes: "Pain is an intrinsic part of being born in a physical body, as the Buddha has taught. In reality, aging and sickness begin the moment we enter the world. Yet we are conditioned to ward off all pain. We are unwilling to allow the pain simply to happen."

There's something that feels quite radical about the idea of ceasing to struggle with pain, and just learning to, well, make friends with it. So settle into your most uncomfortable Hero or Double Pigeon pose, and then give this a try.

A Guided Meditation: Bringing Lovingkindness and Compassion into Areas of Pain
* Allow your eyes to close gently.
* Center attention on the breathing.
* Move awareness now to a part of the body where there is pain and discomfort.
* Rest there.
* Be aware of any sensations that might be there.
* Allow whatever you find to be okay.
* No fight.
* No struggle.
* Be with the truth, with acceptance.
* Continue attending to the breath for a while. If possible, breathe into and through the pain, as if this were actually the place where the breath enters and leaves the body.
* Direct the following phrases quietly to the area of pain (or use your own meaningful phrases). Allow the words to echo within you.

"I welcome you into my heart." "I accept you."
"I care about this pain."
"I hold you deep in my heart."
"I accept what is happening right now." "May I be free from fear."
"May I be happy, just where I am."
"May I be peaceful with what is happening."

* You may lay your hands gently on the area of discomfort.
* Allow feelings of lovingkindness and compassion to flow through the body. If there are no feelings of compassion, that is okay, also.
* Continue repeating the phrases.
* End by returning to the breathing for a while.
Working With Pain (Tricycle: The Buddhist Review)


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