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                   May 2005 Book Review and Quotes Archive

                                                                  Break Through Pain
                                                        A Step-by-Step Mindfulness 

                             Meditation Program for Transforming Chronic and Acute Pain
                                                                 By Shinzen Young
                                                                 Sounds True, Inc. 

                                                                ISBN I-59179-199-5

 

Shinzen Young is a remarkable man, fluidly moving between and integrating several significant fields of study with a gift for

sharing both insight and joy. Born in the United States, he discovered an affinity for Asian language and culture. Steeped in

Buddhist study and rigorous Zen & Vipassana training, he bridged the understanding of esoteric, mystical traditions within

Christian, Islamic, Taoist, Hindu, and his own Jewish heritage. His perspective on these areas of experience is rarified by his 

accomplishments in the study mathematics and science for which he has been a college level instructor.

So, in short, he's a guy with a knack for condensing wisdom traditions and teaching meditation skills with the simple eloquence

of a master teacher and the elegant precision of a mathematician. He likes to order and number possibilities and conditions - so

there is just sufficient information - not too much digression so as to confuse, nor too little so as to leave one guessing to fill in

the blanks.

Break Through Pain is an elegant, slim volume of specifically focused, practical instruction in understanding and managing or

defeating pain by reducing it to component parts of sensory, emotional, and cognitive experience through the application of

meditation skills. The result of this process is the reduction of fear and suffering, integrating in a state that he calls: "acceptance

and equanimity". The beauty of his approach is its practicality. His instruction is not airy or abstract or obscured in deep new-age

woo. It is refined, accessible, and pragmatic. This is the intention of a man who has experienced personal pain and does not want

to waste time delivering the means of relief for someone else's suffering.

The book itself provides good background and context for Shinzen's approach.   The real work horse is the included CD with guided

meditations putting the rubber to the road, so to speak, in deconstructing the experience of pain, learning from it, and moving on.

Track five is a wonderful practice with "breath pleasure" that is like finding treasure or cool fresh water in an oasis. He is careful to

discern between merely distracting oneself with pleasure and building positive concentration skills in the face of pain's adversity.

Check the thought of the week archive on this site for a great quote illuminating pleasure and pain.

If you are dealing with pain in your life, this book is a sensitive and informed guide to that inner journey. It is useful, I believe, regardless

of the source of pain: physical, grief, emotional, chronic or unpredictable.  As my collection of lifetime injuries mounts its toll, I expect

 to make this book a companion. If it is reprinted, though, it would be a kindness to enlarge it and bump up the type size so aging eyes

 don't have to strain.

 Review by Tom Tower

 

 

 

                                             May 2005 Weekly Quotes    

 

"Typically, physical pain produces emotional reactions, which may be quite intense. The most common emotional reactions can be

grouped into four categories:

The first is the fear family, which can range from subtle anxiety to paralytic terror.

The second is the anger family, which can range from mild irritation to homicidal rage.

The third is the sadness family, which can range from being slightly "down" to deep depression, and includes grieving and self-pity.

The fourth family is the shame family, which can range from slight self-consciousness to intense humiliation or mortifying shame."

Shinzen Young, Breaking Through Pain, 2004

 

"Most people also are not familiar with the experience of pure pleasure. What people call "pleasure" is actually a mixture of

pleasure and grasping around the pleasure. Just as consciousness is purified by experiencing pain without resistance, it is equally

purified by experiencing pleasure without grasping. The dropping of resistance to pain and the letting go of grasping onto pleasure

are two sides of equanimity."

Shinzen Young, Break Through Pain, 2004

 

"Suffering is a function of two variables: pain, and the degree to which the pain is being resisted. What do I mean by resistance?

Resistance occurs in both the body and the mind, and may be either conscious or unconscious. Conscious resistance in the

mind takes the form of judgment, wishes, fearful projections, and so on: "I hate the pain. I can't stand the pain. When is it going

to stop?" Conscious resistance in the body takes the form of tension and holding. You have pain in the leg, but you may be

tightening the jaw, tensing the breath, perhaps clenching throughout the whole body, not letting the pain spread and circulate.

As for the unconscious resistance, by definition, we have no control over this, as it occurs in the deep preconscious level of

neural processing, moment by moment. However, carefully observing the pain allows the unconscious to gradually unlearn its

habit of resistance. This is why the practice of mindfulness often involves intently pouring awareness on the pain."

Shinzen Young, Break Through Pain, 2004

 

"Formal sitting is to meditation as playing scales is to music. Even great musicians still play scales, but scales are not the

purpose of music. In the same way, even experienced meditators still do formal sitting practice, but formal sitting practice is

not the goal of meditation. The concert is the goal of music practice; living one's life fully is the goal of the meditation practice."

Shinzen Young , Break Through Pain, 2004

 

   

                                                                      

 

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