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Pain

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Pain

Baby's Experience of Pain in Its Environment

However, for many reasons, things don’t generally go that well. Sometimes the child has gas or pain and the mother doesn’t come in time, so the pain or tension is not released. The baby is still dependent on the mother and the environment to help release these charges or tensions. Sometimes it is not that the mother isn’t there, but that the baby gets sick or constipated or can’t keep food down. Then there is pain that is not discharged when it needs to be. Things are in fact much worse than that; if this were the whole story, it would be wonderful. However, the truth is that the baby usually lives in an environment in which the parents are not the most wonderful beings on earth. The child is very open, and can feel the pain and suffering going on in its immediate environment. The child is aware of its own body and can also feel the tension, rigidity, and pain in the mother’s body or anyone else it is with. If the parents are suffering, the child feels it. If the mother is suffering, the baby suffers too. The pain never gets discharged. We are not even considering the acts of cruelty that so many babies endure. Some parents take their own conflicts out on the child in physical abuse, neglect, or emotional rejection. All these things affect the child in the same negative way—there remains pain that is not discharged. So the natural movement is impeded, and the child doesn’t return to its natural harmony. There might be difficulty in the body of the child. Sometimes even when the mother acts in a loving way toward the baby she is feeling anguish, or self-rejection, or other negative feelings inside herself. The baby always feels this pain, and the mother isn’t discharging it for herself or the baby.

Essential Presence Doesn't Feel Pain

In contrast, during the first journey, you usually identify with one image or another—most of the time with an image of yourself as a child. When intense feelings arise, such as pain, it can be too much to stay with, and self-awareness is easily lost. Essential presence, on the other hand, doesn’t feel pain. There can be a great deal of pain, but essential presence makes the experience of pain secondary for the soul. So the totality of the mandala is always secondary to its center, which is essential presence. The contact with our true nature is essential presence, which in time becomes more powerful, more grounded, more solid, and pervades the mandala more and more as it moves toward the third journey. The essential presence, moved by the force of its optimizing intelligence, reveals more of its qualities and the understanding of those qualities, moving you to deeper and deeper dimensions of presence. This is a very organic, interconnected, synergetic process. The mystery that is our ultimate nature—inexhaustible in its possibilities—guides us by means of this dynamic force of intelligence, affecting our experience in a way that eventually reveals the original mystery.

Inviting the Soul to Open Up Her Pain

When we are not in touch with our true nature, the emotional pain of our everyday life can begin to feel intolerable. But the more we recognize ourselves as our true nature, the less significant our emotional pains become. Regardless of how deep the emotional pain goes, our true nature is infinitely deeper. But without access to the depth of who and what we are, intense pain feels overwhelming. It threatens our sense of who we are, so we close down or clam up. Over time, we block the pain by deadening ourselves, by making ourselves insensitive, thick, and gross. Without the soft, radiant warmth of Loving-kindness, we aren’t going to trust enough to open up. Our field of experience needs to have this sensitivity, because we have become insensitive. So if our inquiry is going to invite openness in our experience, it must be open to the possibility of experiencing the pain, hurt, and suffering. It not only has to be open in the sense of allowing the suffering to surface in consciousness, but the openness has to embody a gentleness, delicacy,
sensitivity, softness, and considerateness. Only this will truly invite the soul to open up her pain.

Like a Physical Injury, the Cutting or the Blocking of the Flow of Presence Causes Pain

A second related factor is that shutting down the flow of one’s essential nature often involves actual blocks in the flow of physical energy in the body. Awareness of these blocks might feel like contraction, denseness or deadness—“my heart feels like a stone; my legs feel like wood; my head feels like a bowling ball”—or even complete opacity to our experience which can manifest as an inability to sense a certain part of the body at all—“I have no legs; my heart is numb; my head is blank.” On a third, more subtle level, the block may be not so much in the flow of physical energy (which is of course never complete; blood flows, nerves function), but in the availability of parts of the body to awareness, or in the availability of the experience of essential presence in the body. Like a physical injury, the cutting or blocking of the flow of presence in the body causes pain, which is defended against in the normal course of conditioning, but the process of uncovering self-identity structures necessarily penetrates those defenses, and thus makes available the sense of pain resulting from what one can almost literally call a tear in the being of the self.

Opening Our Inquiry to Our Pain

When our inquiry is open to our pain, our pain will open up and expose itself to the healing agent of Loving-kindness. Furthermore, our pain and suffering will open itself up and reveal the truth that is hidden when we close down the pain. If our inquiry doesn’t open up to our pain, it cannot proceed very far, because the route to our own truth is blocked by our positions and defenses that protect us against the pain we have—the pain that is natural for human beings to experience. Sometimes we can avoid feeling pain by closing down our sensitivity, and sometimes pain is simply unavoidable; we can’t help feeling it. But essential Compassion responds to and welcomes all forms of pain—whether mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual, whether exposed or hidden. The moment the Green latifa is present in our inquiry, sensitivity and openness increase and deepen from all sides. Inquiry is more open and sensitive, and the openness becomes more attuned and empathic. This means that the soul is now more open to reveal her suffering and her vulnerability. ......... So if our inquiry is going to invite openness in our experience, it must be open to the possibility of experiencing the pain, hurt, and suffering. It not only has to be open in the sense of allowing the suffering to surface in consciousness, but the openness has to embody a gentleness, delicacy, sensitivity, softness, and considerateness. Only this will truly invite the soul to open up her pain.

The Distinction that Brings Rejection, Hope and Desire

AH: Yes. Rejection is also based on memories. Not only is there activity in going after what you hope for, but there is also activity in avoiding or rejecting something. This pattern involves an alternation between pleasure and pain. There is something that we call pleasure and something that we call pleasure and something that we call pain. From this distinction comes rejection, hope and desire. But you can see that when you’re rejecting the present, you’re pushing against it, you’re rejecting it. That very action is a contraction. At the deepest level, that action is a frustration. The heart of contraction is always a state of frustration. And the more you reject, the more you feel the frustration. And the more you reject, the more you feel the frustration. The more you feel the frustration, the more desire you have to release the frustration. But it’s a vicious cycle, as you can see. The more you reject, the more there is contraction, the more frustrated you become. Then you want to do something that will release the frustration. But you do this by hoping for something in the future and rejecting the present, which creates more frustration, which makes you hope even more to release it. So you hope some more, you push, and more frustration is created. This cycle generates the personality, and it is the experience of the personality itself. This cycle is what we call ego activity. When you really feel it, the actual substance of the personality is a feverishness, a lack of stillness, a lack of contentment. When you feel desire, it’s that frustration, too. Part of the desire that we feel is a rejection of the present and a hope for something else, which brings frustration. The very movement of the personality is frustration,
and the existence of the personality is that movement. The very existence of the personality is that reactivity.

The Real Cause of Suffering and Pain

But the real cause of most of your suffering and pain and misery is ignorance. You don’t know the nature of emotions and inner forces or how your mind operates; you act out of a lack of knowledge. Now you say, “Good, let me have that knowledge and that understanding!” But you see the knowledge as a means to an end, and you believe the end is to feel good, to get what you want. This attitude, regardless of how much self-understanding you have, regardless of how committed you are to working on yourself, will only increase your suffering, because it is a result of ignorance about your true nature. It is true that implicit understanding will release a person from suffering, but this is a side effect. It is not the main focus of our inquiry. As long as your perspective is to seek to feel good and not bad, to feel pleasure and not pain, you will reinforce your pain. Now everyone is wondering, “Well, what are we going to do then?” But even this question is coming from the perspective of wanting to feel good. Who is asking the question? The one who is suffering and doesn’t want to be miserable any more! So you’re trapped. You can’t do anything, you can’t say anything, you can’t think anything without reinforcing the basic perspective of wanting to be happy, wanting pleasure and not wanting pain. It’s quite a dilemma: by desiring happiness you tend to create suffering.

The Way You Look at Reality Determines How You Experience It

The way you look at reality determines how you experience it. If you look at it from a subjective point of view, a mental construct, it will appear dark, and will for the most part feel painful. If you look at it with a fresh mind and a fresh heart, you see that it is good and feels wonderful. The sense of goodness is more real and fundamental since its existence is not dependent upon your point of view. It is only when you don’t have a point of view that you perceive that that’s how reality is. This is why the inherent goodness of reality is considered to be abiding and more real than any perspective. The sense of reality as filled with pain and suffering, on the other hand, is dependent upon your beliefs, and while they exist as part of reality, they are incidental to it. So we are differentiating between what is fundamental and what is incidental to the nature of reality. The perspective of Holy Love is that if you don’t try to see reality one way or another, you will discover that it is wonderful, and it will actually become wonderful. You don’t have to do anything to make it that way; it is like that on its own. All you need to do is relax. If we tighten up and get scared, things look negative and become painful. That’s how reality works. Eventually, we learn that it is more skillful to see reality as it is
because doing so makes our lives easier.

Facets of Unity, pg. 213

We Need the Kindness of Guidance to Stay with the Suffering of the Soul

We need the kindness of Guidance in order to stay with the suffering of the soul; without that, it is too painful to tolerate the difficulties in our experience, and inquiry would be impossible. Frequently, for example, we close our hearts with our anger and rage. In order to open to the pain that is there, we have to go through the rage and anger. To do this, sensitivity is needed to recognize that the anger is our outrage about the pain. So if we inquire into what the outrage is about, it will reveal the hurt. Otherwise, it will stay hidden. Experiencing the hurt will then reveal the underlying truth, and also open our hearts to the essential quality of Compassion, the Green latifa. The intelligence of Compassion allows a kindness that does not try to get rid of suffering but creates an openness to whatever is happening so the truth will have the opportunity to reveal itself. In this way, inquiry goes counter to the tendencies of the ego. Ego doesn’t want to experience pain. It wants to protect itself from pain; Guidance wants to open up the pain. It wants us to feel the pain as fully as possible, for without that willingness to feel whatever is there, we won’t be open to ourselves or our experience. That is why getting in touch with our Compassion requires us to feel our pain and hurt—because our hurt is what invites the Compassion. Compassion comes out as a response to pain. At the same time, we need the Compassion in order to be attuned to our experience so that we can inquire effectively. Without our pain, our kindness would be limited, which would limit our attunement, which would then limit our inquiry. Human beings get used to believing that emotional pain is bad, but emotional pain is mostly an invitation for Compassion, an invitation for sensitivity. That is how human beings learn to be sensitive—we get cooked, and by getting cooked, we soften. We become delicate and sensitive.

When Our Inquiry is Open to Our Pain

When our inquiry is open to our pain, our pain will open up and expose itself to the healing agent of Loving-kindness. Furthermore, our pain and suffering will open itself up and reveal the truth that is hidden when we close down the pain. If our inquiry doesn’t open up to our pain, it cannot proceed very far, because the route to our own truth is blocked by our positions and defenses that protect us against the pain we have—the pain that is natural for human beings to experience. Sometimes we can avoid feeling pain by closing down our sensitivity, and sometimes pain is simply unavoidable; we can’t help feeling it. But essential Compassion responds to and welcomes all forms of pain—whether mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual, whether exposed or hidden. The moment the Green latifa is present in our inquiry, sensitivity and openness increase and deepen from all sides. Inquiry is more open and sensitive, and the openness becomes more attuned and empathic. This means that the soul is now more open to reveal her suffering and her vulnerability. When we are not in touch with our true nature, the emotional pain of our everyday life can begin to feel intolerable. But the more we recognize ourselves as our true nature, the less significant our emotional pains become.

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