- We Really Hate Pain
- Leading the Horse to Water that It Won’t or Can’t Drink
- Taking off the Bandage
- Rain Flows Downstream
When we first enter this world, we learn the harsh feeling that pain delivers. As parents, we spend lifetimes trying to keep our children from experiencing as much as we felt when we were growing up. As aged people, we spend on pharmaceuticals and every contraption imaginable to avoid having to suffer from it. And our own imaginations create our hopes of next world existence in places free from pain – heaven, nirvana, the after-life.
We even will often leave ourselves in relationships that are painful simply because we want to avoid the additional pain of having to end it – because in some sense, it may feel worse (mostly from sense of guilt) to end the relationship, rather than endure and continue. This particular point is often seen as one of those “double-edged swords” with what seems to be negative outcome no matter which path you choose. Remember that guilt becomes a trigger for our own negative behavior, as well, as it is triggered from our emotional wish to try and relieve the pain and suffering of others. But also remember the premise that others can only change themselves, just as we can only change ourselves.
Through that same idea, we cannot end the suffering of someone else, even if we are causing it, because we can only remove ourself as a source of pain. Even if you go away, their pain they feel may continue. You cannot achieve a goal of making another person’s world free of suffering. They have to be able to create and sustain that for themselves.
We are even taught that suffering trains us to be tougher, or more resilient. (e.g. “Man up!” or “Tough it out!”) While love may work through the premise, that “All love flows through your own love for you,” pain follows a similar path. When you put yourself through a painful life, it actually tends to transmit the same to others. Ever had an emotional reaction to seeing an senior war veteran, realizing what that person had gone through and still emerged alive? Was that feeling joy and elation? Or was it empathy for their pain?
This is why Shinnyo talks about your attitude when performing voluntary service is really important. If you view contributing your time and efforts as a burden, or a task you’d rather avoid, others will not see the positive nature of our efforts – they feel the pain instead. In doing our work, any work, if we do not retain the joy and happiness related to why we are doing it, we actually can produce a counter-productive result. Instead of more people being encouraged to “follow our lead” and help-out, we end up giving people the idea “Wow, I’m really thankful I don’t have to do what they’re doing.”
Physicians of all sorts learn the concept behind expediency in trauma treatment leading to faster recovery (and ideally, less pain sustained.) The pain of pulling a bad tooth endures less than suffering from the infection. But I think the verdict is still undecided on removing bandages from a healing wound. Some say, doing it quick has a momentary shock of pain, but it’s over quickly. Others find removing it slowly and deliberately causes less incremental pain, though it takes longer to subside. Either way, leaving it in-place doesn’t end the suffering, it merely avoids it, but perpetuates the pain’s eventual emergence.
The difficult thing is that emotional pain can extend long beyond the physical cause. That’s because emotions are triggered from inside your mind, and not a splinter you can just remove. I think it’s this kind of pain that often binds us to inaction – why we stay in bad relationships, or even perpetuate ones that we know aren’t good for either person, but it seems preferable to having to experience the actual pain of breakup and dissolution. Or maybe we even try to convince ourselves that somehow the pain will end if we just suffer through it, even though we’re causing it (which is why emotional pain isn’t a bandage you can simply remove.) From a physiology standpoint, emotional pain is biochemical – which means until you change the chemistry that creates the trigger, the psychological experience will endure.
Even a person with advanced dementia and Alzheimer’s can still feel emotional pain. And all the sedatives and tranquilizers you can take, won’t change the biochemistry that is causing the sensation; they just mask your momentary awareness of it. Only actual change in mind (setting forth the right thoughts), body (cessation of the bad behavior), and soul (this is the motivational part of why you are listening, or reading this – it is your Self you are changing) can heal an emotional wound.
When you feel life’s burdens seem to be never-ending, part of the feeling may also be the result of what we consider karma or the product of previous generations. That is not to say, the blame is from your ancestors – each generation is given the opportunity to address that burden and each generation can address it, or pass it on to the next. You have the capacity to transform burdens into life’s challenges and your opportunity to overcome them, or be overwhelmed by them.
There’s an old illustration of a thief who has a strong attachment to money. Succeeding generations of their spiritual downstream also maintain a similar attachment, whether in the opposite direction (they loath and refuse to accumulate it), or reinforcing it (by hoarding or collecting it.) The attachment becomes a never-ending hunger that cannot be satiated either way. That is where the concept of embracement of life’s events becomes empowering. Shinnyo (oneness with truth) says life never delivers you a challenge you are not ready to accept. How you deal with it determines so many things downstream from your choices. Whether called the Butterfly Effect, or leave it unnamed, this is the actual power you have to affect the world around you.
/* For more information and discussion feel free to e-mail me at jlui at jlui dot net, or twitter @jhlui1; With Gassho _()_, James*/