Adventures in watching the logical mind deal with pain

Was sitting up in bed this morning, listening to birdsong and enjoying the cool (ok, COLD — this is Wisconsin) breeze drifting in the windows…. ahhh…. when my cute little monkey mind noticed that my back hurt.

Very slightly. In one spot.

The pain had started in January and I’d finally done healing on it in May. My back has been recovering nicely since and doesn’t hurt anything like it used to. I’d slept wrong, though, woken up in the dark to find a tinge of the old pain from my odd arm position. I’d shifted my body and gone back to sleep.

And now as I sat, simply being, receiving birdsong and breeze, my mind noticed that my back felt slightly… off.

Next, my mind next remembered that my back had hurt there! And it had not been pleasant! Whoa!

To the mind, the memory of hurt is pretty much the same thing as the hurt itself, isn’t it? 

With this morsel of data, off my mind raced! A second later, it had dug up a related feeling of being punished.

“I hurt, therefore I’m being punished,” it insisted.

In my state of calm ease and peace, that thought seemed quite odd. Really? My back hurts because I’m being punished?

I let it go, like when the three-year-old announces that people are really cats in disguise. I simply observed my mind’s thought, neutrally suspended in the beauty of the morning.

Meanwhile, the mind decided to wake up the Curiosity Department. “Why do I think I’m being punished?” the CD wondered. And the CD sent little bundles of curiosity-consciousness out like ants to scour the landscape of my mind for crumbs.

“Because,” it announced a few seconds later, and quite proudly, “When I was little, the only time something hurt was when I was being punished.”


The mind is so cute, like a small child doing its best, adorably clumsy, simply due to its state of development. The mind can be especially entertaining when I am in a wordless place and can watch it run about busily comparing, contrasting, ranking, and reliving events from the past as if they were present.

It can be particularly irritating, however, when I am firmly ensconced in other thinking and judging parts of the mind itself, and cannot detach from these other thoughts.

But this morning, I patted my curiosity on the head and told it, “Nice connection. Good job.”

And I let it go, continuing to breathe birdsong and breeze for a short time before getting out of bed.

I don’t believe its idea, of course. What about all those bike wipeouts, the clumsy bumps, and the toe I jammed the day before 12th grade? Not punishment.

The trouble with the mind is that other parts of the mind like to believe the stories it comes up with. And that usually doesn’t lead anywhere useful.

When we practice a state of pure receiving, it becomes easier to stay neutral to the mind. Whether you call it meditation or listening or contemplation, the more we practice, the less the mind bothers us outside of practice, too. Then we can enjoy the mind’s machinations like we might watch busy squirrels play in the yard.

It is not possible to get rid of the mind. It is a layer of our human consciousness, and pretty handy for driving across town or figuring out how to change the batteries in your new electronic toy. But we can make peace with the mind, learn to recognize its favorite games, and practice stepping into a deeper form of consciousness in order to avoid the snares of monkey thought.

The delightful irony, of course, is that we must use our minds to develop this practice.

May you find ease in developing your practice.

© Daria Boissonnas 2013 All Rights Reserved. Please email us about reprint rights.

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