In the last four weeks, I have had an onset of pain so debilitating that writing this is one of the few things that I can do. Onset of rheumatoid arthritis. An ongoing car wreck.
The only way to practice with pain is to endure it. No frills, no expectations, nothing nice about it. When you are in pain, sometimes that is all there is, blotting out all other thoughts. Your world becomes contracted to the location of your pain - in my case, my entire body.
Maybe practice is my pain, but what does that mean anyway? How can practice be anything but our lives? It is not some metaphysical icing added on to make our lives “spiritual” or pretty.
I have learned that the best thing you can do for your pain is practice zazen. The worst thing you can do for your pain is practice zazen. It is the best thing because there is the possibility of consciously entering into your pain so vividly that exploration is possible. Maybe there is a way out, or at least some relief. But since zazen is being with your body and its sensations, pre-existing pain is torture. There you are, right there, with no place to go.