Monday, August 29, 2016

Being at Peace With Pain

peaceful nature, being at peace, spiritual peace, spiritual awakening
Being at peace with pain is possibly one of the highest orders of spiritual maturity. In a world that is so full of pain and suffering, the concept of being at peace with pain is probably a foreign one to many of you. Firstly, I need to remind everyone of how I am defining these terms. Pain is a communication tool of the heart-body-mind. It's telling you that something is wrong. If you step on a tack, the physical pain is telling you that you should check your foot and remove the tack. Without that pain, you could cause more damage to your foot. Simply put, physical pain is a part of this world. There's no way around that.

Suffering is when we ignore pain and/or continue to do actions that cause pain. If we don't check our feet when we step on tacks and continue to walk, we'll cause more damage to our feet. We'll suffer. Additionally, suffering is caused by psychological issues such as wanting life to be different than it is. This psychological pain can cause enormous suffering both in terms of attempting to change things in us and the external world to "make us happy" emotionally. There are also physical repercussions of trying to change ourselves and others. For example, a lot of people use alcohol and drugs to try to change their feelings and alleviate emotional suffering. These actions rarely work, and when they do seem to work, the relief from suffering is short-lived. Sometimes, we can even delude ourselves into believing that we've fixed an issue that was "causing" suffering to us, but invariably it comes back until we get to the root cause. Thus, part of the way out of suffering is to see things as they are, and this includes accepting pain.

And there's a lot of pain of all kinds to accept. There is the physical pain you may endure, and there is seeing the suffering and pain others must endure. To be sure, the pain of something like hunger may be difficult to be at peace with, but we can be at peace with it. Otherwise, psychological suffering can make a difficult situation truly unbearable and far harder to address. Thus, being at peace with pain is a hugely important step to resolving the pains that can be resolved and alleviating the suffering from the pains that simply must be endured.

Beginning to Notice Pain

Human beings have really gotten amazingly good at ignoring and numbing pain. Prescription drugs, illegal drugs, alcohol, sugar, and so many other substances are just one aspect of how people are attempting to avoid their pain. But this doesn't work. It just makes things worse, and people suffer. It's why when a lot of people have a spiritual awakening that they awaken to enormous pain. A lot of people don't begin in an awakened state feeling good and blissful. More than a few awaken and feel the extent of their neglected pain and suffering. In this way, awakening shows the individual the truth of their current reality. That's all. And the personal has to learn to be mindful of the pain and how to listen to all the stories it is sharing to heal through it. Depending on how out of alignment someone is with him/herself and any traumas s/he may have suffered, this could take awhile.

For everyone else, you have the opportunity to notice pain in a little more gentle and less forceful way than an awakening. It's really not that hard to do, but if you are too busy or too intoxicated with whatever substance you're self-numbing with, then a purification process can be really important. Purifying isn't about achieving a perfect state of physical purity. It's about clearing your system out enough so that you can feel your feelings and body sensations. Then it becomes really easy to notice where there is pain and to start to sit with the discomfort. Being able to identify pain is the first step to resolving it.

Identify, Accept, Embrace, and Let Go

Doing the Spiritual Work You Need to Do

Usually a lot of pain has arisen because of the things you do. So you can't keep doing the things that bring pain to you if you want to stop suffering. Yet, this is precisely what people do. They get into a phase of bartering with themselves. They may know that they need to leave a relationship, go back to school, find a new home, study for an important licensing exam, or something else, but then they procrastinate or talk themselves out of it. They may realize that a way of interacting with others doesn't serve them, but then they keep doing it. By continuing to do these things to avoid what appears to be painful, they only reinforce those actions for themselves, and they continue to suffer.

That's why a lot of people have to stop doing most things and sit and be still. It's a way of resetting yourself and letting the dust settle enough to identify what is going on inside of you. When we are too fixated on the external world, we lose our sense of ourselves. In so doing, we are constantly at the whim of whatever good or bad situations have arisen and our unconscious responses to all that. It's those inner responses that we need to notice and engage. The more you can identify those hidden choices, the more you can begin to change your responses. This is a big part of alleviating the mental and emotional suffering people experience. A lot of that pain can go away. A lot of emotional pain is the result of an idea you have that doesn't like a current situation. If you are upset that your sports team lost today, that upset is arising from a choice to believe you should be upset because they lost. There's no reason for you to be upset. This is a purely made up emotional pain, but when people don't work on those hidden beliefs, they continue to get upset every time the Kittyhawk Flyers crash and burn in the playoffs.

Maturing in Peace and Opening to Great Suffering

Let's jump way ahead in the discussion because I really want to speak to some of you who have already done a lot of amazing spiritual work for yourself. If you know how to be with pain and release those unconscious choices that have made you psychologically suffer, you are becoming extremely empowered in your own space. However, there is a lot of suffering in this world. Many, many very unconscious people do terrible things to other people, animals, the environment, themselves, and anything else they can harm. For example, being at peace with child abuse is a whole other level of peace, and it requires you to let go of your beliefs about how life should be on an even deeper level Because getting upset that child abuse occurs does not help the child or the abuser. In general, it tends to perpetuate those problems because when people are upset about something, they tend to want to punish others. But abusers tend to become abusers because of all the pain that's already been inflicted upon them. So when you punish an abuser in some way, you are typically only teaching them more about pain and not about love. Which means when the punishment is over, the abuser will very likely continue you on in abusive patterns.

In saying that, being at peace and in love with childhood abuse is NOT about liking it. It's NOT about being passive about it. It's NOT about being lenient towards it. It's about really seeing it and accepting it as part of this world. We have to do this because child abuse IS part of this world. As a result, our inner peacefulness helps guide us towards the most useful response we can offer to address this situation if we are called to address it. If and how someone is called to address this major social issue will likely be different for everyone. If someone knows child abuse is going on at a neighbor's house, then you may call the authorities. In other instances where you're not directly knowledgeable of an ongoing incident, you may be moved to donate to a non-profit that helps address the needs of victims of child abuse. You may share stories on social media to help raise awareness. All of this can be done from a space of inner peace without letting anger, sadness, and other reactions drive you. As such, there is a possibility for deeper transformation in the lives you touch when you move from this space of love.

Being at Peace With Your Limitations

Being at peace with pain and suffering in yourself and in the world also means being at peace with your limitations. We cannot "fix" everything. A lot of people have the notion that if they heal or change themselves enough that everything and everyone else in their life will like them and play nice. But that's not life. Many people won't like your changes, and some people will actively resist your spiritual growth. It doesn't matter how at peace or loving you are with some people. You cannot make choices for them, but you certainly don't have to expose yourself to unnecessary suffering from others.

With that said, there are still limitations in the world around us. A lot of times people feel trapped by a society that demands we have money to buy things. That is another form of limitation that isn't going away in the near future, as far as I can see. So there is a need to be at peace with the limitations society creates through money, through transportation, through types of housing, and all other kinds  of constructs. It may all be made up, but there is only so much that can be changed at any one time. Many of us know of all kinds of important changes that need to be made to society, but any change in the physical world takes time. Time is another one of those limitations that you must learn to be at peace with. The more you can allow things to unfold in their own time (while doing your part), the more the divine can show us what it wants to show us in this world.

Dropping Deeper in True Peace

Dropping into the changeless space within us is powerful. It is the purest and truest refuge. The more you allow yourself to simply be, the more your human self tends to enjoy human peace. I make a distinction from true peace and human peace. They often are confused. True peace is the space of oneness and the witness. In that space, you can see everything arising and passing. It has no preference. It has no preference over if you feel physical pain or not. When our attention is in this space of timeless presence, our human selves tend to follow along like puppy dogs. They start to emulate that space as best they can. So resting in this true peace tends to give rise to greater calmness, which is basically what we call feeling peaceful. It also gives rise to compassion, joy, kindness, wisdom, and all those things that human society badly needs. This world does not need any more fearful decisions or vengeful retribution. We've seen enough of that, have we not? We already know where those things take us.

Additionally, you may find that non-action is the greatest form of action you can take in helping your own life and the lives of others around you. Unlike passivity, this is an alive space. We find clarity and ease in non-action. Nothing is required of us to be us. Nothing needs to change in this world. It is a powerful part of true peace. However, there's a way that it reminds others of that truth inside them. It calls to them. The way true peace can emanate out of someone is profound, and it does influence other human beings, although we can only ever guess at how much. Sometimes, a need for action arises from this space of peace and non-action, but in so doing, as I've already mentioned, that action now comes from clarity, love, and complete acceptance of what is. And as I've also said, the impact of such actions can be extraordinary.

No Longer Limited By Pain

One of the unfortunate truths for most people is that they are limited by pain. We are afraid of it, so we avoid it. But most pain that we are afraid of us is a choice inside us. As we learn how to let ourselves be at peace, this pain cannot limit us. Even when pain arises, we do not let it choose our decisions as a mature spiritual person. Even when we get stuck in an old suffering loop in our minds again, we know we can still choose our actions without listening to this suffering even as it makes us feel poorly. This is a powerful freedom, and it is one few people come to. But the more you sincerely journey on your spiritual path, the more readily you will find yourself simply at peace. And when you rest in this natural peacefulness, you are not limited by pain and are free of suffering.
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