We all experience pain in its many forms. Whether it’s physical pain, sadness, anger, frustration, disappointment, shock, confusion, or worry, we’ve come to know pain as an unwelcome guest in our lives. Pain can frequently visit us in its many versions, as it can pave the way for sleepless nights, arguments, stress, anxiety, or other unpleasant side effects.
But what is pain, really? What does pain truly represent and mean to us? When we begin to investigate the nature of pain and its source, we can come to terms with its properties and value to us and see it for what it really is.
While we may tend to share the opinion that pain is undesirable, the reality is that pain is neither good nor bad, or desirable or undesirable. It just is. When we experience physical pain, we are obviously made aware of physical damage or distress somewhere in or on the body. Likewise, if we can realize that pain in its other forms, such as sadness or anger, has the capacity to shine a light on an aspect of our life that leads to personal discovery, pain can be a powerful feedback mechanism. The key to allowing the pain to serve as a feedback mechanism is to dive deeper than the superficial experience of the pain. While you may feel sadness, you may not be taking the opportunity to really experience it on its many levels and understand what it really is to you.
Diving deeper with an inquiry into our pain can provide much insight as to why we are experiencing it in the first place. This provides us with an opportunity to go below the superficial experience of the pain and really gain an understanding of its source. Upon further investigation, you may come to realize that pain resides in our passion. When we care so deeply about something, such as being accepted by others, having peace in the world, or kindness between people, if we see a contradiction to or violation of that ideal it causes pain. For example, if I was passionate about keeping my house clean, and someone comes into my house and makes a mess, I will experience the pain of frustration, anger, resentment, or even sadness. Because my passion is cleanliness, but I see a contradiction, I experience pain.
With the understanding that pain provides us with awareness, and that awareness leads us to discover the passion behind the pain, we can move to resolving it within us. The long and the short of it is that we can eliminate the pain through indifference, although in practice this is not so easy and takes time and patience. However, if you can simply develop the awareness of the source of the pain, this is an important step in moving forward along the process of removing the pain from your life.
I suggest that you first find something else in your life about which you are indifferent. For me, for example, I would say that I am indifferent about NASCAR. How do I know I’m indifferent about it? I know because I don’t care about who the drivers are, what races they’re in, when the races are, or who wins. I have absolutely no interest in the sport, its competitors, or outcome.
Once you find something that you are indifferent about, you can examine the experience of indifference. Take time to learn what indifference feels like to you, and how it creates a sense of ease and subtle strength. When you are indifferent you are not affected by an outcome and you feel unattached.
After you have had some time to spend in that indifference, it’s time to return to your passion. Now you can spend time in the process of inquiry, asking yourself just why this is a passion to you and why it is so important to you to maintain this passion. Only you can answer these questions, and only you know what your next steps will be. Sometimes simply understanding the nature of the pain and its source provides comfort and relief of the pain when it comes. Awareness alone has the capacity to soothe and heal.
The bottom line is that pain is not necessarily bad or undesirable. It’s something that leads to our awareness if we take the time to understand it. That awareness can lead us on a path toward the elimination of the pain if we can come to understand the passion in which our pain resides. Through meditation and contemplation, you can uncover the nature of your pain and its source and determine what the next steps are for you. Understanding our pain is a journey, but on that path, you may transcend it to experience peace.