|Can of Pain Can Be Bought At The Pharmasave Price|
I have had a number of occasions lately to ponder suffering, which in some sense is different from pain. Pain is inevitable in this human life, suffering is optional, right? Suffering, it's what we add on to the pain. Do we all agree on that? Twisted ankle = pain. Ain't it awful = suffering.
And so it was suffering I pondered the other day as I brushed on my favourite chartreuse paint, rubbing it deep into the textured crannies of the canvas. I was worrying about something, the usual. We have our go-to's of suffering, don't you think?
Over and over this little nub, I went in my mind, rubbing and scratching at it. I was so tired of myself and my way of chewing on this little bristle of fear by mid morning, that I knew I needed to do something different before my head exploded. I was tired of being both victim and perpetrator. A Dharma teacher had told me to comfort my fear, to befriend to it like I might a small child. I was having a hard time doing this. This child and I were just not feeling the love.
I thought, "so if I can't be friends with this furry little beast, maybe I could just spend a little time with it, quality time. I had observed that what I do with my fear on a regular basis, is that I push it away. I want to fix it, I want to banish it from the planet. I want it to eat my dust. Then everything will be okay, right?
But there it is running behind me. Always this is the scene, me running, fear in hot pursuit. We are both so friggin tired, I thought. I've had enough. Fear, how about you? I have worn out so many pairs of fear drenched sneakers, it's ridiculous. So I just stayed still. Fear got up close and personal. It had fangs and whiskers. It was smelly. And there I was feeling it's qualities, noticing it's ripples and roughness, it's warts and bad breath. And I didn't self destruct. I felt squirmy at first. And then the longer I stayed, the quieter I got. I got to feel my own strength for the staying. It felt strangely good, like muscles waking up, flexing, seeing it was possible to just be still with fear. Ha, fear I can be with your bad breath. And then after a bit, it moved on without me. No sneakers required.
Another visitation of "pain" came one day in the weekly qi gong class I take. I realized at one point what a "struggler" I am, how this is a mode I go into when I am learning something new, doing something unknown. Assumption number one of the struggler is: "this is going to be hard". This thought is followed by physical tensing and tightening and the holding of breath. "Remember to breathe" our qi gong teacher reminds us regularly. (Apparently I am not the only struggler in the building.) So first there is the thought, followed by a body state that supports a depletion of energy and potential failure. And off goes the little line of dominoes.... A way of being that makes new things seem daunting and unwelcome, a way of being that encourages a retreat, a shrinking from life. Could this be anything but painful? Could this be suffering come to life?
And that lovely little book "The Buddha's Brain" reminds us that the neuroplasticity of the brain allows us to change our response when we become aware of it's unhelpful nature. We can choose to do things differently. Sometimes we need to look those little demons in the eye a whole bunch of times before it occurs to us that we have a choice. Sometimes we need to get so tired of ourselves that we are motivated to get out there on the neural pathways with a big shovel and do a little path realignment .
So I ask you, how big is your can of pain? And how do you usually serve it up? And have you found any ways to take the lid off this can? A bientot, mon ami.