Don't jump up and don't get excited. Just observe the pain mindfully. When the pain becomes demanding, you will find it pulling your attention off the breath. Don't fight back. Just let your attention slide easily over onto the simple sensation. Go into the pain fully. Don't block the experience. Explore the feeling. Get beyond your avoiding reaction and go into the pure sensations that lie below that. You will discover that there are two things present. The first is the simple sensation--pain itself. Second is your resistance to that sensation. Resistance reaction is partly mental and partly physical. The physical part consists of tensing the muscles in and around the painful area. Relax those muscles. Take them one by one and relax each one very thoroughly. This step alone will probably diminish the pain significantly. Then go after the mental side of the resistance. Just as you are tensing physically, you are also tensing psychologically. You are clamping down mentally on the sensation of pain, trying to screen it off and reject it from consciousness.

The rejection is a wordless "I don't like this feeling" or "go away" attitude. It is very subtle. But it is there, and you can find it if you really look. Locate it and relax that, too. That last part is more subtle. There are really no human words to describe this action precisely. The best way to get a handle on it is by analogy. Examine what you did to those tight muscles and transfer that same action over to the mental sphere; relax the mind in the same way that you relax the body. Buddhism recognizes that body and mind are tightly linked. This is so true that many people will not see this as a two-step procedure. For them to relax the body is to relax the mind and vice versa. These people will experience the entire relaxation, mental and physical, as a single process. In any case, just let go completely until your awareness slows down past that barrier of resistance and relaxes into the pure flowing sensation beneath. The resistance was a barrier that you yourself erected. It was a gap, a sense of distance between self and others. It was a borderline between "me" and "the pain." Dissolve that barrier, and separation vanishes. You slow down into that sea of surging sensation, and you merge with the pain. You become the pain. You watch its ebb and flow and something surprising happens. It no longer hurts.

Suffering is gone. Only the pain remains, an experience, nothing more. The "me" who was being hurt has gone. The result is freedom from pain. This is an incremental process. In the beginning, you can expect to succeed with small pains and be defeated by big ones. Like most of our skills, it grows with practice. The more you practice, the more pain you can handle. Please understand fully: There is no masochism being advocated here. Self-mortification is not the point. This is an exercise in awareness, not in self-torture. If the pain becomes excruciating, go ahead and move, but move slowly and mindfully. Observe your movements. See how it feels to move. Watch what it does to the pain. Watch the pain diminish. Try not to move too much, though. The less you move, the easier it is to remain fully mindful. New meditators sometimes say they have trouble remaining mindful when pain is present. This difficulty stems from a misunderstanding.

These students are conceiving mindfulness as something distinct from the experience of pain. It is not. Mindfulness never exists by itself. It always has some object, and one object is as good as another. Pain is a mental state. You can be mindful of pain just as you are mindful of breathing. Incidentally, the "stress-response system" surrounding fear releases the same neurochemicals as chronic anger does--adrenaline and cortisol. Research has shown that, while these two compounds are essential and beneficial in short bursts, chronic exposure produces significant disruption to your body's immune system, opening the door to all manner of secondary health problems. One of the most striking things about the above Mayo Clinic list is that it's full of conditions that mental-health professionals encounter with people who believe they are simply suffering from depression. In other words, depression never stands alone. It is always both the circular cause and the effect of numerous other factors--including letting the three deadly emotions go unresolved. The good news is that your emotions do not have to dictate the direction of your life, including your struggle with depression. It is possible to keep your emotions in balance so that they empower you and don't encumber you. But how can we know the difference between healthy anger, guilt, and fear and the versions that have turned destructive? The answer lies in the idea I introduced a moment ago: empowerment. If your anger is momentary and leaves you feeling determined to make some positive change in your life . The good news about overheated emotions is that you need not live as their hostage. It is possible to regain the upper hand over what you feel and why. It's understandable if your first reaction is to doubt that claim. Chances are you've been living with deadly anger, guilt, and fear for so long that they seem woven into your very personality.

Don't despair! This is not true. With discipline and concentrated effort on your part--and with support from professionals and others in your life willing to help--you will see a dramatic change when you set out to tame your emotions. That's the conclusion of Andrew's story. He committed to a whole-person treatment program that included dealing with the feelings he'd been trying so hard to deny. Within just a few months, his life looked very different than it did on the day he first walked into my office. He was sleeping again, had shed much of his extra weight, and best of all, had lost the shadow of hopelessness that had drained his life of joy and meaning. Healing like this can be yours, too! The moment you enter a conversation, the rest of the world should cease to exist. Ignore you mobile phone, don't make eyes at the attractive person near the bar, and let your friends fend for themselves. It's important to give every ounce of your being to every conversation you have. It could be with a salesman at your door, the clerk at a grocery store or a stranger you meet at a networking event. The effect this has is profound. No one puts so much of their energy into a conversation anymore. We're all distracted by our techno-gadgets and our social lives beyond who we're talking to. The simple act of listening will show that you're intrigued and that you care. Don't just listen to the other person talk - react to what they have to say. When someone says something upsetting, show them that you feel their pain. Even if you listen to a conversation 100%, a lack of reaction will make it seem like you're not invested. Fix this through active listening (more in Chapter 5) and generate direct connections with the men and women you meet.