Joseph Goldstein explores what pain is, the ways we’ve been conditioned to respond to it, and how we can simply and softly settle back into whatever the present moment offers us.
This dharma talk was given at the Insight Meditation Society in 1983 and originally published on Dharma Seed
The Three Types of Pain
Joseph begins by distinguishing the three different types of pain that people experience. He talks about the mind’s response to feelings of pain, and how these responses aren’t really helpful. Joseph explores the key elements to working with pain, including looking directly at pain in a balanced way, and being mindful of the attitude we have towards these intense sensations.
“Most of us, until we’ve really learned to explore and investigate the nature of pain, most of us are afraid of it. We’re afraid of feeling pain, we’re afraid of feeling discomfort.” – Joseph Goldstein
Pain and the Present Moment (19:35)
Joseph reflects on the mirror-like quality of mind that is necessary for simply and softly being in the present moment. He talks about how our minds have been conditioned to respond to pain with resistance and avoidance. Joseph shares how we can relax into unpleasant situations, how fear and desire feed into one another, and why having a sense of humor is so important.
“So learning how to be present, learning how to open to the whole range of experience, is what allows us to come to a totality of ourselves, to understand the nature of what our mind is about, what our body is about, what our experience is about.” – Joseph Goldstein
Ram Dev (Dale Borglum) shares a dharma talk around why pain is mandatory, but suffering is optional, on Healing at the Edge Ep. 36
Mental Anguish (36:45)
Joseph answers questions about the ways that we try to deal with mental anguish. He talks about not getting caught up in the storylines we create for ourselves to be the star of the show, and ends with a reminder of the simplicity of settling back into being present for what’s happening.
“When you find yourself caught, really lost in that intense mind state, and you’ve lost the ability to settle back into it with awareness, and there’s so much identification and involvement with it, as a way of coming back to balance, coming back to the body is very helpful.” – Joseph Goldstein