I recently underwent a minor surgery, and was given local anaesthetic. Although the operated part of the body was numb, I could still feel the pressure of the surgical instruments. While there was no actual feeling of pain, I was still fearful and uncomfortable. As such, I shed silent tears. There was a nurse standing next to me to monitor me, and he occasionally wiped away my tears.
Throughout till then, I now realised, I was doing Niantong (念痛: was mindful of pain or suffering, but with aversion). Unfortunately yet fortunately, it was only three-quarters of the way through the surgery, that I remembered you (Shi’an) having said some time ago in class, to Nianfo (念佛: be mindful of the name of Amitabha Buddha – ‘Amituofo’) and not to Niantong. And so I did.
Immediately, since my focus shifted, I no longer felt as uncomfortable as before and my tears stopped. I did not realise this until the nurse asked if I was feeling better, as he noticed I had stopped tearing. At once, I understood what you had been trying to teach us. I am glad you taught us that. I am also glad that I remembered. Better late than never!
Namo Amituofo : Celine (name changed for privacy)
 A lot of our needless suffering arise from the mental anguish that we habitually create, that we add to already existing physical discomfort (or pain). Our minds can only hold one thought in each thought-moment. When there is the ironical ‘attachment to aversion’ of pain or suffering, we toggle between experiencing the physical discomfort as it is and aggravating it with mental discomfort. This can escalate out of control, with each form of discomfort seemingly worsening the other in a cyclical way.
 It is actually possible to Niantong only, without any aversion. This would be similar to Vipassana practice of being objectively mindful of sensations and thoughts without reacting to them. (Pain becomes suffering only when there is aversion towards it.) However, being mindful of pain or suffering is especially difficult to practise when there is already habitual aversion against pain or suffering in the first place.
 We can more fully occupy our minds with sincere Nianfo, even if already with some pain or suffering. The more fully we Nianfo then, the less pain or suffering there will be, as the mind will be correspondingly less occupied by it. It is not that mindfulness of any subject other than pain or suffering will do. Especially if the pain or suffering is serious, the fastest way to not only reduce but remove it is with utmost sincere Nianfo. This connects to Amituofo’s bountiful blessings that enter to dilute away negative karma that causes the suffering, leading to swift healing. With stronger connection, not only will there be eradication of misery, there will be increase of bliss too. (Lasting and total healing is when Amituofo’s Pure Land is reached.)
 It is indeed better late than to never practise sincere Nianfo. It would be truly TOO late, however, if we forget to Nianfo well on the deathbed, and get reborn elsewhere (other than Amituofo’s Pure Land) according to some other stray last thoughts. The dying process for the average person is likely to be with much pain and suffering too, due to magnified sensitivity then. This is why we should practise Nianfo well in everyday life, to make it a strong habit to quickly Nianfo in times of need.
How To Handle Pain With Nianfo