03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Finding Buddha In A Back Spasm

Yes, a back spasm. Hit me a week ago. Lower back, right side. The details aren't important. I get one or two a year. They come out of nowhere, unrelated to any physical activity I'm doing at the time, and, man, they make their presence felt for a few days. I usually gripe my way through the eight or nine days it takes to clear up, but I approached it differently this time, and that's what I wanted to blog about tonight.

I've gotten a greater appreciation of how pain--the non-life threatening, non-chronic, localized, physical kind of pain that something like a back spasm causes--is a great gateway into the world of moment-to-moment awareness. I'm lucky enough to have a half-hour train ride to-and-from work each day--perfect for clearing the mind without getting into boredom issues--and this past week I've had an opportunity to "work with" this thing I'm calling the pain in my back. Here are a few random observations I've made:

---there really isn't any fixed, established "pain" that exists on its own. This discomfort in my body is more or less a concept I establish after the initial mishap, then give added life and presence to with my constant THINKING about it! But if that kind of continuous thinking can be interrupted by being present in the moment, the difference is remarkable. A meditation teacher I heard speak once said that one of the biggest misperceptions we make in life is believing there is continuity running through everything, or to be more precise, through ANYthing. If I'm with the pain on a moment-to-moment basis, I see quickly that it changes.. sometimes worsening, sometimes going away completely. It only seems to "settle in" when I go back to unfocused, complaint-oriented THINKING about it.

---I've tried not talking about it very much. All that does it keep giving new life to the discomfort over and over again, each time I bring it up. It renames it, and redefines it, and lots of other re- things that don't get you to a better place. Keeping quiet about it has been very effective, and, honestly, who wants to hear about it anyway?

---This whole staying-in-the-moment thing? Difficult. Simple, but difficult. But getting positive glimpses of what it can mean, with something as basic as dealing with a muscle pain, definitely makes it worth exploring further in other aspects of one's life... like facing the other pains and challenges that await somewhere down the road.

---Motrin helps, a little ... Hey, I said I was FINDING Buddha, not becoming him!