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When the Bod-hisattva Quan the Am, who has been such a source of inspiration of peace workers in Viet- nam, saw into the reality of the five aggregates giving rise to emptiness of self, she was liberated from every suffering, pain, doubt, and anger. -- The Miracle of Mindfulness, p. 48

I have been practicing mindfulness for less than a year. I have had some deep experiences and found benefit. However, when I have a migraine headache my mindfulness feels completely useless.

Any guidance or any good resources that would teach me to practice my mindfulness in the midst of a bad headache would appreciated.

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    As a fellow migraine sufferer who feels one coming no right now, I would also be very happy to hear good answers :) Thanks for asking! – Yeshe Tenley Aug 18 '18 at 15:15
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Read this story by Ajahn Brahm about dealing with intense bodily pain (toothache).

Read the following exercise only after you read that story.(otherwise you will mis-understand)

Exercise

When you have a migrane attack, take a deep breath really deep, fill your lungs completely. Now, hold this as long as you can. Initially this time is 4-5 seconds but it becomes 10 seconds which is enough.

What happens is your body goes in shock and some 'fight or flight' harmones are released. This focused attention gives extream boost for mindfulness of migrane itself.

In this situation become mindful of your migrane and do what Ajahn Brahm has told to do.

When you cannot hold the breath any longer, let go of all the breath, empty the lungs and repeat the exrecise. This is bit difficult than holding the breath, you can do the first step.

Preferably keep your eyes closed.

Pain goes away.

Don't do this while driving or doing anything else. Just make sure you are just sitting doing nothing while doing this.

  • Thank you! I will read the story and try the techniques suggested. – Stanley Aug 20 '18 at 12:44
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Theravada Buddhist Answer based in the Burmese method as taught by the Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw.

The following method is based in Vipassana meditation. This type of meditation is characterized by taking reality as an object of meditation, meaning that one directs attention towards the most apparent object in the present moment.

In terms of a migraine attack one might focus on the pain, nausea if present, a feeling of lightheadedness or ones reaction towards those objects.

One would note whatever object is most predominant and change object when another object becomes predominant. One notes the pain by mentally and slowly saying to oneself "pain, pain, pain". This is done while keeping attention on the object. One notes in order to create clear comprehension about the object, so to not fall into either liking or disliking of the object.

When this is done repeatedly over a period of time the mind will come to see the pain as merely an object. One will come to understand that the pain is not a problem. Instead its our own reaction to the pain that creates suffering for us.

For more in-depth information on the method in relation to dealing with pain, I recommend the following video teachings given by Ven. Yuttadhammo:

He also made a booklet, which is available here.

May you have a fruitful practice.

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    This is very interesting, but it almost sounds like concentration meditation instead of vipassana. To try to focus on the object ... being pain ... and establish one pointed concentration on that. You know, I never considered doing this, but it sounds fascinating. Like, I wonder if my monkey mind could finally concentrate single pointedly if I used pain as the object! I could also potentially use my aching knees as one of them is constantly in pain when sitting in half lotus. – Yeshe Tenley Aug 21 '18 at 14:02
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    They are in fact complete opposites. In Samatha (concentration) meditation on focuses on a single object to the exclusion of everything else. In Vipassana meditation one changes object depending on whatever object is most predominant. Vipassana meditation is designed to allow the meditator to gain insight into how reality functions, ie. how conditioned reality is impermanent, unsatisfactory and uncontrollable (devoid of any self-essence). – Lanka Aug 21 '18 at 14:12
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    I see. Same with the pain in headache I guess. This object is also arising, changing, and decaying constantly. But Samatha is often done with the breath as the object which also has that character...? – Yeshe Tenley Aug 21 '18 at 14:16
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    That is correct. The difference in Samatha meditation is that the object is a concept, in a way its artificial, since one tries to make it stable and permanent (which it isn't). In Vipassana meditation one takes reality as an object. One experiences how reality is ever-changing and not under our control. They are two different types of meditation designed for different purposes. – Lanka Aug 21 '18 at 14:18
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    Thanks @Lanka, I think this is excellent and I have not seen the difference between serenity and insight meditation defined in this way. In my school, it is taught that one must unite serenity and insight meditation to perceive reality as it actually is. Does your school say the same? Using your definitions it I imagine it sounds something like, "To see in an (artificially) permanent and stable way the utterly impermanent and unstable nature of all things." – Yeshe Tenley Aug 21 '18 at 14:24

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