Spiritual exercises on pain

Tenzin Wangyal

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche a well acknowledged Bon teacher, gives some interesting spiritual exercises in dealing with pain (Bon is an ancient shamanic tradition of Tibet, that predates Buddhism):

Remedy for Pain: Three Pills of Inner Refuge


Let’s explore how you could heal a painful experience by finding refuge through the three doors of body, speech, and mind. First, engage in a brief reflection and become aware of a challenge or issue in your life at this time. As you bring it to mind, notice how this issue lives in your body. Bring clear attention to any agitation or tension you may be experiencing. As you experience the sensations in your body, draw attention to being still. Focus on stillness. As you begin to feel stillness, the agitation begins to calm; as you continue to focus on stillness, the agitation releases. Continue to draw attention toward stillness and as you feel it, rest there. Stillness can become the doorway to experience a glimpse of the unbounded space of being, a deeper stillness that is always present. That deeper stillness is the medicine, for it gives access to a sense of unbounded spaciousness. Your agitation has become the path for liberation, and it is a matter of fully realizing that stillness is the access or doorway to integrate unbounded spaciousness into everyday life. I actually refer to this medicine of stillness as a white pill, and I encourage my students to take the white pill frequently throughout the day.


Another aspect of pain can be experienced as the internal voices we generate. As you turn your attention inward and simply look at any discomfort you may be experiencing, what happens? Maybe you are thinking, I am looking, but I’m not sure I really see it. That is a voice. You are talking to yourself. Or you are saying, It sounds very easy, but it is not that easy. Again, you are talking. Or perhaps you are thinking. Well, I can just look at my pain, but the other person never changes. I can look at my own experiences, but how does it help if the other person doesn’t change? Again, more talking. If you are talking to yourself in this way, you are not paying proper attention to your pain. Can you hear this as pain speech? Pain is the one talking and you are identifying with the pain. You are confused as to who you truly are. The moment you realize you are not the voice of your internal dialogue, you become free. How do you do that? You draw attention to the silence. Stillness and silence are two different doorways but lead to the same place—the inner refuge. Here, because of your internal dialogue, you listen to the silence. The moment you hear the silence, that voice of your pain has gone, and you can become aware of the unbounded space of being. That pain voice has become a path, and the silence is what you have realized. Now it is a question about maintaining that silence, nourishing that silence, fully realizing that silence, integrating silence with every voice and every sound. That is how you transform or turn that pain speech into the medicine of silence through which we recognize the unbounded spaciousness. I refer to the medicine of silence as the ‘red pill,’ and again, recommend that you take the red pill of silence frequently throughout the day.


At any given moment in which you look at your mind, it could probably be clearer than it is. Most of the time, we are not even aware of whether our mind is clear or not because we are focused on others or involved in inner stories or fantasies. When you bring your focus to your mind itself, even while feeling confused or disconnected, if you look at your mind in the right way, you can discover that the nature of mind is clear and luminous, and that it always has been. But if you are not looking directly at mind itself, if you are caught in the contents of your mind and identifying with the imagination of ego, you don’t see the clear and luminous mind. If you look at the mind itself, it is clear. It can never be anything other than clear. There is no force in the universe that can obscure the nature of mind. There is no force in the universe that can destroy space. Space is always here; it is just a matter of drawing your attention inward and discovering the unbounded spaciousness of being. When the mind moves into thinking, as you become aware of that, bring your attention back to the spaciousness itself. It is always right here; you just haven’t noticed or valued it. That is how you turn the confusion of your moving, thinking mind, into the path. I refer to discovering the medicine of spaciousness as taking the blue pill. Whatever challenging thoughts and emotions you are experiencing, whether individually or collectively, the medicine of spaciousness is always available.

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