How to “Divide and Conquer” Pain with Shinzen Young

The underlying approach to using Mindfulness Meditation as a method for working with pain is a skill I call “divide and conquer.” Here is the basic idea: if an experience is overwhelming you, break it up into its parts, and keep track of them as they arise moment by moment. A phenomenon cannot overwhelm you as long as you can divide it into manageable parts. (A hundred-pound rock represents a crushing weight. Two fifty-pound rocks can be handled, albeit with effort.)

This divide-and-conquer principle can be applied to any type of sensory experience—physical touch, emotional feel, and so forth—but we certainly are not trying to conquer thought, pain, or any other sensory phenomenon. What gets conquered is the driven-ness, fixation, and unconsciousness that pervade our sensory experience.

Shinzen Young

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Shinzen Young became fascinated with Asian culture while a teenager in Los Angeles. Later he enrolled in a PhD program in Buddhist Studies at the University of Wisconsin. Eventually, he went to Asia a...


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