Processing Pain

Processing Pain

It is nearly impossible to make it through this life without experiencing some degrees of physical and emotional pain. You might feel those two types of pain simultaneously.

Pain on a physical level is extraordinary. It’s an opportunity to contemplate that you are alive. And sometimes it is jarring to realize that we are actually living. Sometimes we get so deep inside of our minds, thoughts, and mental processes that we actually lose sight of what it feels like to be alive.

When we experience extreme pleasure or pain we feel alive. Of course most human beings and most creatures will gravitate towards pleasure. We’d all prefer to be in a place of pleasure rather than a place of pain. This is true of even the most advanced Yogi, the most advanced meditator, the most advanced teacher, and the most advanced guru. Even if they free themselves from almost all attachments, they will still prefer a place of pleasure to a place of pain. And if any human being in this world told me that I must prefer pain to pleasure I would want nothing to do with them.

Having said that, great teachers will tell you that it is important to be present with your pain, to experience it and not deny it. I agree wholeheartedly with that. But I don’t embrace pain. I don’t enjoy pain. Rather I move through it, work with it, and accept it when it’s happening. Sometimes I have to cry. And I always have to breathe through it until the feeling subsides.

If my wife or one of my daughters comes into the room and is willing to rub my forehead and hold my hand then I will experience relief. That will be so because another human being is there to physically help me. It will be soothing. I’ll appreciate it, and I will feel better. I will not push her away.

Such an experience tells me something about the essence of being human. It suggests that I should continually invite the healing hands of another to touch my life. In this way I’ll be taught compassion. And when I wake up and recover from my pain, I’ll remember what it feels like when people ease the suffering of others.

If I embrace my pain alone to prove to myself that I am a master then I will miss some of the greatest blessings and lessons of life: Companionship and union with others. And I speak of compassion to not only human beings, my friends, but also to birds, bees, flowers, trees, pigs, sheep, cows, and goats. Those creatures and others are sharing this time at this space with you in your life.

Pain is a great teacher. But pain is not my friend. Pain is something that I can use to build my strength. It’s something that will prepare me to build my character and treat my mind, but I don’t love pain and I certainly don’t look forward to it.

I make the judgement that pain sucks. I judge pain wisely. It is my understanding that pain sucks that prevents me from touching the hot stove or trying to jump off of a cliff and land on my toes. If pain did not suck, all the great philosophy that talks about ending pain and suffering would be false.

Although pain sucks, you’re going to have some of it. But you can make the best of a bad situation. When you have pain, you have an opportunity to purify your mind. When you sit with the pain, sometimes you can choose to go into the deepest recesses of your character defects. The things that you’ve done in this life to harm others will come to the surface. Thinking of them will make you weep.

You will cry like a baby, and the crying will release energy. The crying will ease the pain and suffering. The crying will be the revelation of truth in that present moment. Follow the breath as you go through the experience. And make a list in your mind of those you have harmed and become willing to make amends to them if at all possible.

When you sit with pain and suffering, you can also see the people who have hurt you deeply. You can tie the pain in your heart with the pain in your body and feel them together. Let the pain in the body transform the pain in your heart. Tie them together so that as you heal from the pain in your body the pain in your heart will dissipate with it.

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