The End of Suffering: How to Separate Pain From Suffering
There is great power in suffering and pain -primarily in learning to distinguish between, and separate, the two. Chronic pain is our harshest teacher. It is also one of the egos worst enemies, as it demands our awareness into the presence, threatening the ego’s existence.
The ego behaves much like an invasive, unshakable parasite –it has an inherent need to cling and latch on to our every thought with such ferocity that we intertwine the damaging mind made stories it conjures up with absolute reality. The two –the stories we make up and reality– become impossible to decipher between until fierce awareness of the self and of the present moment exist. This is how pain escalates into seemingly inescapable suffering –which is to say, the mind itself is the root cause of suffering, not pain. As it has been said many times, “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. Once intense awareness of the present moment arises, suffering begins to disintegrate and the door opens for pain to work towards the evolution of our soul.
I have yet to experience something that brings us closer to our true selves and to the deep truths that dwell within us and connect us to each other and to the universe than pain after the death of our egos dissolves the mental agony and suffering it has created. I know this to be true because chronic illness has changed me in so many ways, ways in which I most likely would have never changed without; at least, not at such deep levels within. Illness revealed previously undiscovered parts within, parts which I otherwise would not have discovered for a very long time, if ever.
The paradox of intense, all consuming pain is that it is an invitation to either something awful (the creation of “poor me” victim attitudes) or something beautiful (an extreme transformation within, advancing our hearts and souls at an accelerated rate) Only when our worlds of comfort, and illusions of safety, are shattered do our souls and hearts grow at unparalleled rates.
Only when we are forced into isolation and are away from all others do we begin to better understand mankind and ourselves.
Only when we sink into loneliness do we, overtime, begin to value solitude and understand the crucial importance of it.
Only when we are tortured in the dark soul of the night are we able to revel in the vibrant essence soul of the universe and, for the first time in our lives, finally emerge into true light.
It is then and only then, that we no longer beg to return to our old lives, but become determined to live new ones. It is then, and only then, that we realize we were never fully alive before.
Meditation For Separating Pain From Suffering
- To begin, quiet your mind. Breathe deeply, exhaling in and out from your belly, while focusing on your the sensation of each inhale and exhale. Do this for a couple of minutes. Feel your belly rise and fall as you inhale and exhale, and pay attention to the cool sensation of air as it enters the body and the feeling as you release it.
- After you have spent a few minutes doing this and quieting the mind, bring the pain you are experiencing to the forefront of your mind.
- Resist the urge to place judgement on the pain as good or bad, despite the mind’s tendency to immediately begin creaitng a story around the pain (how awful it is, how it will never end, how you do not deserve it etc.), If this happens, understand it is natural, and neither resist the thoughts or feed into them. Let them go as effortlessly as they came.
- Remain witness to the pain that is present, and any thoughts and feelings about it that may arise. When you cease to place labels on the pain, about how awful it is for example, you stop amplifying it and creating suffering. You let go of emotional attachment to it.
- Do this for as long as necessary, eventually coming to a deep understanding that you are not the pain.
- End by gently focusing on your breath once more.
This may prove difficult at first. Even after you have done it a hundred times, it may still prove difficult at times. It does for me, at least. There are times every bone in my body screams not to face the pain but to instead complain about it, convincing myself that a pity party would be an extremely exciting celebration at the moment. However, I know this is not true, and is only resistance to entering into the present and the pain out of fear. I’m only human, you are only human. I hope. Regardless, such resistance is entirely normal and okay, as long as you recognize it for what it is and do not give into it. The more you practice this, the more you come to see pain as something that is not personal, and the less needless suffering you create for yourself (and those around you..)
When you are in pain and are able to tune in to your inner core, as opposed to complaining and grasping for external crutches which only create immense suffering in the end, you are able to sit back and think “that is pain,” and “that is not ME.” If you are screaming at me while reading this, cursing me for not understanding how extreme YOUR pain is and convincing yourself that your pain is surely worse than anything I’VE experienced, I do not blame you. I used to scream at the me’s of the world too. I used to defend my pain –and for that matter, call it MY pain, and own it as if it were mine, as if it were a badge of honor (although I did not see it at the time and would have been furious at anyone for telling me so). I played the “my pain is worse than yours” game too, like that was a good thing (assuming it were true). So, you may think your pain and the suffering accompanying it is too intense to face in this way, and you are absolutely correct as long as you think this way.