Living with pain

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 16, 2015 – 12:00am

Pain. Nobody wants it, but everyone encounters it in life. Pain is that thing that ruins our comfort, happiness, fulfillment and joy. It is that thing that tells us, “No. You can’t have a good time.” It spoils everything and mocks us for its own reasons.

There is physical pain that can stop us from doing a lot of things. Immediately, when something hurts, it shuts down any other sensation you are feeling. It does not make you numb. On the contrary, it has you screaming and agitated. It shuts off your attention to anything else. It is as if all life has been reduced to a throbbing pain in your body and demands all your attention. Nothing else matters.

There is also psychological and emotional pain, which seems to remap your mind and change your emotional software so all things you see are in relation to some unpleasant and awful memories you can’t get rid of. Big chunks of life revolve around this pain that generates negativity and fear.

In many ways, much of what we do in life is about avoiding pain. We have medicines to kill it, substances to numb it and apathy to help us not deal with it. We also have religions and philosophies to explain it.

But let’s face it. We are all born into this world of pain only to die in the end. And even if we know all pain ends when we die, we are not in any rush to end pain in that manner.

Why? Because we have also experienced what it is like to feel good, to be happy, joyful and fulfilled. And for many of us, it is worth all the pain to experience those.

I have met people who have lived in constant pain for years, and more often than not, many of them exude a certain calm, depth and acceptance. It must have taken them quite a while to deal with it. The pain is annoying and gives them great suffering but they seem to know better how to handle it. It is as if they have accepted it and made a leap of sorts to become bigger than the pain. It is a psycho-spiritual decision to stop feeding the pain and instead use the energy to highlight other aspects of living.

A woman who suffered the loss of her daughter to suicide told me how difficult it was to bear the pain. Aside from losing a daughter, she had to deal with so much imagined guilt. This happened a few years back. She has largely moved on, with great effort and forgiveness. It was truly spiritual journey. When the pain of losing her daughter under such terrible circumstances haunts her, she goes into busy mode and applies her attention to other things until she feels exhausted. It is inspiring seeing her still with a beautiful smile, a love for people and the ability to sit through long soulful conversations.

There is something that happens to a person whose life suddenly becomes pain-filled. The philosopher Ken Wilber put it very well: “A person who is beginning to sense the suffering of life is, at the same time, beginning to awaken to deeper realities, truer realities. For suffering smashes to pieces the complacency of our normal fictions about reality, and forces us to come alive in a special sense — to see carefully, to feel deeply, to touch ourselves and our worlds in ways we have heretofore avoided.’

Wilber is right. Pain opens us to a greater reality and asks us to get bigger. “The wound is the place where the Light enters you,” wrote the poet Rumi. This light introduces us to our bigger, truer selves.

The most difficult psychological and emotional pains to deal with are those that have already solidified and become big blocks that have turned our hearts into lead. They have become dark places inside us that prevent us from further self-realization.

I believe the best way to deal with emotional pain is to act on it immediately. Otherwise, one becomes cynical. I tell this to artists who must deal with rejection. It is not good to linger too long in self-pity.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artists’ Way, has an excellent suggestion. She says that instead of asking, “Why me?” the right question to ask is “What’s next?”

Author Eckart Tolle suggests we all have a pain body living inside us where all our emotional pains are stored. Our pain body may lie dormant for years, but will awaken and be energized when our ego is threatened. And it can take over our thoughts, words, and actions.

When two people awaken each others’ pain body, they feed frenziedly on each other until both are sated. They no longer need to be fed until the ego is threatened once again and their pain bodies wake up and attack each other again.

Spiritual maturity asks us to lessen the pain body’s influence over us. This means living with as small an ego as possible. By consciously dealing with traumas and therefore lessening our pain body’s grip on our lives, we become less prone to acting out our hurts on other people, ourselves and the world.

Finally, there is pain that serves a purpose and there is pain that is needless. The pain of losing someone, of heartbreak, of failure, or body pain from exercising may serve some good, if properly processed. But pain caused by a headache or a toothache and the like is unnecessary and hardly serves a purpose. There really is not much to learn from them.

Just take meds.

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