Violence, Blood, Broken Bones and Other Joys of Meditation

February 19, 2013 by Chris Grosso

broken buddha

“It’s times like these

You learn to live again”

– Foo Fighters, Times Like These

Meditation can be extremely brutal sometimes. I don’t mean brutal in the physical sense, like when our knees hurt from sitting in meditation for hours on end, but rather, I’m referring to the source of our deepest pain—the mental level—the place where things can get really dark.

I just came out of one of those brutal mediations, one that was so difficult in fact, that I found myself wondering, “Is this really worth it?!” Of course, I know that once these intense feelings begin to subside, the answer will unquestionably be yes, but that’s just how bad it can mentally get sometimes when we sit. 

It actually reminds me of when I’m in the middle of a long tattoo session and the artist is working on a particularly sensitive area. During those times I’ll often find myself thinking, “I’m never getting tattooed again… and this time, I really mean it.” However, like clockwork, I’ll be out jogging (usually about a week or so later) when I catch myself contemplating what tattoo I’m going to get next, and feeling the anticipation of how I can’t wait to go back.

While the pain of tattooing can certainly be rough, I’ve personally found that it pales in comparison to the mental and emotional pain I’ve experienced at times while sitting in meditation. That’s not to say that meditation is always dark and something to be intimidated by, because the majority of the time, it’s not. All it takes however is one of these periodic hellacious sits to keep me in check of just how much healing and work there is still to be done. However, on the flipside it also evokes feelings of gratitude that I even have a meditation practice in my life in the first place. It’s through learning to sit that I’ve found the strength to face pain when it arises and walk through it, rather than run away and hide from it, escaping through things like drugs.

The most difficult times I experience while sitting are those that bring up the wreckage of my past actions while I was still in active addiction. It never ceases to amaze me that some of the awful things I did many years ago are still clear as day in my memory. Violence, blood, broken bones, DUI’s, blackouts—that’s just the tip of the iceberg of these memories, and along with those bitter visions, comes the pain. My chest tightens, stomach turns, fists clench, and of course there’s the accompanying mental dis-ease, and while this may sound somewhat dramatic to some readers, I promise you, it’s not.

So why do I, and many others like myself do it—stay present with these experiences when we could just as easily numb ourselves with any of the limitless distractions life has to offer? Well, I think that for many of us, it’s because no matter how uncomfortable our meditation (or whatever other practices we do) may get at times, deep down we know that our only other option is to revert back to our old ways of living—the days when we were plugged into the so-called Matrix and at peace living oblivious to the fact that there was a better life waiting for us if we were just to unplug.

The discomfort we may experience at times in our practice isn’t fun, however, it’s through our practice, and the subsequent ups and downs, that we learn how to experience our pain with compassion and a soft heart.

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Chris Grosso is a writer, public speaker, mental health youth group facilitator, and author with Simon & Schuster. He also writes for Revolver Magazine, Fangoria, and has spoken at a bunch of fancy-schmancy festivals and conferences (as well as even more events that were significantly less than fancy-schmancy). Chris's podcast, The Indie Spiritualist, is hosted on Ram Dass's Be Here Now Network.
  1. […] This post titled ‘Violence, Blood, Broken Bones and Other Joys of Meditation’ over at the Indie Spiritualist puts it out there. PS- I’m on Chapter 5 of his new book and it’s super good. […]