Practice pages: meditation
By Dr. Lorin Roche
Wound as Portal

Ouch. Ooooooowwwwwwwwwwwch. The mantra of pain.

Hurt happens. In sports, we can get blistered, sprained, sunburned, and bruised. When we are cooking, we can get cut, burned, shocked, stung, pepper in the nose, onion in the eyes. Love is a workout too, with its own injuries – heartaches that come as sharp pangs and stabs of pain, the sensation of being broken, loneliness that feels like a hole in your soul, the tearing when something in a relationship rips. Whatever your run, if you really go for it in life there will be some hurts along the path. We need to be able to make use of the pain, heal quickly, and be back on our way.

There is a yoga practice for injury, and it is simple and cruel: enter the pain. Use it as a doorway. Let it wake you up. In The Radiance Sutras, a new translation of the vijnana bhairava tantra, it is said:

Sting of a wasp, 
Rip of a nail,
A razor’s slice,
The needle’s plunge. 

A piercing word,
A stab of betrayal,
The boundary crossed,
A trust broken.

In this lacerating moment,
Pain is all you know.
Life is tattooing scripture into your flesh,
Scribing incandescence in your nerves.

Right here
In this single searing point
Of intolerable concentration,
Wound becomes portal.

Brokenness surrenders to
Crystalline brilliance of Being.


kiñcid aṅgaṁ vibhidyādau tīkṣṇasūcyādinā tataḥ |
tatraiva cetanāṁ yuktvā bhairave nirmalā gatiḥ ||

Consulting the Oracle of Koln – the marvelous Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary online at the University of Cologne, we see language intense as pepper spray in this brief verse of 32 syllables.

Let’s look at the complex images inside these words:

• kinchit - a little, a bit
• anga - a limb of the body, a member, the body; a subordinate division or department especially of science; a subdivision of mantra or counsel; in drama - the whole of the subordinate characters; an expedient; a mental organ, the mind.
• vibhid, to split or break in two, break in pieces, cleave asunder, divide, separate, open, to pierce, sting, to loosen, untie, to break, infringe, violate, to scatter, disperse, dispel, destroy, to alter, change (the mind), to be split or broken, burst asunder, to be changed or altered, to cause to split, to divide, alienate, estrange
• adau - in the beginning, at first
• tiksna- sharp, hot, pungent, fiery, acid, harsh, rough, rude, sharp, keen zealous, vehement, self-abandoning, black pepper, sharp language, iron, any weapon, poison.
• suci - a needle or any sharp-pointed instrument such as a needle used in surgery; a magnet, the sharp point or tip of anything or any pointed object, a rail or balustrade, a small door-bolt, a kind of military array," (placing the sharpest and most active soldiers in front"), an index, table of contents to a book, a kind of sex.
• tat, therel tatraiva - in that place, there, thither
• cetana - consciousness, understanding, sense, intelligence
• yuktva - joined, yoked, union, conjunction, absorbed
• bhairava – A form of Shiva – “Frightful, terrible, horrible, formidable.”
• nirmala - spotless, unsullied, clean, pure, shining, resplendent, bright, sinless, virtuous.
• gatih - going, moving, path, way, course, manner or power of going. Acting accordingly, obeisance.

If we play with these definitions, rock ‘n roll them:

  • Whenever you experience vibidh - being split, broken into pieces, pierced, stung, infringed upon or violated in any anga or area of your life;
  • By some form of tiksna (a weapon, sharp language, poisonous words, harsh emotions) and in that shock and pain you are tempted to abandon yourself or leave your body;
  • Here, right here is a yukti, a “yoga moment.”
  • You can join with Bhairava, the aspect of universal consciousness that accepts our terror as an offering and a gateway;
  • Unite with pure, shining universal consciousness, and begin to heal. The moment of wounding immediately produces a healing response from life.

We are many-bodied beings, with bodies corporeal, emotional, mental, and celestial. We have a physical body, anna maya kosha. We have an emotional body – to coin a phrase, vibhava maya kosha or “body of emotional drama.” Mano maya kosha is the mental body, and ananda maya kosha is the body of bliss. When we get injured on one level, it can throw us through a door in space-time into the next dimension. This happens spontaneously if you have been practicing yoga and meditation. It’s one of the gifts of yoga: the ability to quickly, almost instantaneously, relax into the pain-sensation, not tense around the pain, but open up.

Getting stronger on a physical level is a sweet science of being torn down and then rebuilt, getting injured and healing. When we work out, our muscle fibers suffer microscopic tears, and when we rest, the body rebuilds itself to be stronger than before. Resistance is our friend because the body organizes itself to meet whatever challenges it encounters. The healing process encodes wisdom into our cells, writes a song of healing into our flesh.

This is probably true of the subtle bodies as well as the physical. If you have a meditation practice, you may have noticed at times there are little or big jabbing sensations, as if you are being pierced by something sharp. Open-hearted people, who are emotionally connected to others, report this a lot. Usually this is the heart chakra healing from life’s little injuries, replaying the energetics of some torn connection and healing it on a deep level. Feeling the wound leads to healing, and there is a clue right there, an OM inside the OW.

A slight danger of yoga practice is that we can become too relaxed about pain, and too adept at using it as a means of transcendence. Self-torture has been associated with yoga for centuries. Back in the day, one of the standard images of yoga was of a skinny guy lying on a bed of nails. If yoga were an App back then, this would have been the icon. You’d see it in cartoons, greeting cards, and magic tricks. If you did yoga in the 60’s, you would get greeting cards with this image on your birthdays. Just do a search for “yogi bed of nails” and you’ll see ‘em. My feeling is, enough pain comes to us in the process of living. We don’t have to go seeking it. If we go for it in life, love, art, creativity, sports, and adventure, pain will come to us and we can skillfully deal with it.

When our reality gets punctured, this spontaneous mantra rises in us: Ouuuuch. It’s a particle of OM, calling out to the tribe, that one of us is injured. Calling out to life, “Heal me, I’m hurt here.” When we are hurt, physically or emotionally, the forces of life immediately start the healing process. The spontaneous kirtan of Oooouuuuu is a beginning. OM is the primal song of creation joyously expanding, and Ouch is the beginning of reconnecting with the joy.

Dr. Lorin Roche was lucky enough to begin practicing asana, pranayama, and meditation in 1968, and he still feels like a beginner – every day. He was trained as a meditation teacher in 1969-1970 and has been sharing the delight ever since. Lorin is the author of Meditation Made Easy, Meditation Secrets for Women, and The Radiance Sutras. His Ph.D. is in Social Science from the University of California, where he researched the language of meditation. He lives in Marina del Rey with his yogini shaktini wife, Camille Maurine. Join Lorin and Camille for a 5 day Radiance Sutras retreat at Esalen, May 13-18, 2012, and at Shakti Fest in Joshua Tree, May 11 & 12.

*Gratitude to Denise Kaufman for the fantastic editing and coaching on this.

© 2011 Lorin Roche questions?