Q. How Should I Handle My Pain?

A. Firstly, we have to understand that this pain that is there is not just yours. It’s not “your” pain or “my” pain. As soon as it’s “my” pain then it’s part of my personal identity. As soon as it’s part of my personal identity then it’s difficult to shift. Why? Because the person who is trying to get rid of it is the person who has the pain as part of their personal identity. It’s like trying to freeze water with ice. So once we release the pain from our personal identity we can begin to handle it in a much better way. How we do this is like this: Without trying to compare the severity or intensity of the pain you are experiencing with that of others, look at the suffering others are going through also. Notice that the reasons are manifold, yet the pain itself is the same. The experience of pain, the sensations of pain, the sadness, the longing, the loss… It’s the same regardless of circumstance, regardless of the person feeling it. Recognise that pain is the same across the board, without exception and then the only natural result is to release it from your personal identity. This happens because you realise that it’s not a unique feeling, this pain. Maybe the circumstance is unique, maybe the personality construct or the general life situation is unique. But the pain itself is not yours. How can it be when 7 billion odd other humans are experiencing the same thing?

When you have released it from your personal identity, no longer is the pain trying to look at itself without a mirror. If you think you are someone who is, let’s say a “depressed person” and you look in the mirror and all you see is this depressed person then are you seeing yourself or are you misunderstanding yourself? Are you seeing yourself or are you seeing something which has been added onto yourself, after the fact. Yes, there is pain. There is depression, this is understandable. But is that all you are? If it is all you are then how can you be noticing that it is you? If you were just depressed or sad or anxious or betrayed then you would not say “I am depressed” or “I have been betrayed” and so on. Who is this “I” you are referring to? When you realise that this “I”,whatever it is, must exist before any circumstance or state then it’s very clear that we are not only the pain we are experiencing.

Secondly, when we understand that we are not this pain, we see that also sometimes other feelings come. Sometimes we are happy and other times we are in pain. Yet, there is something consistently present regardless of circumstance. There is something within you, it seems, which is always there regardless of what feeling is being felt. We say, “I am sad”, “I am happy”. What is this “I”? What is always there regardless of the circumstance?

The issue is that all of these happenings transpire within some greater whole, for lack of a better term. Happiness comes and goes within something. Pain comes and goes within something. Like the baby birds and their mother’s nest. While the chicks are in the nest, they give the nest context, necessity. If the mother of the nest decides that one chick, who has been mischievous, should not be in the nest anymore then she is neglecting the journey that this baby bird has come on to get to this point. Likewise, if she showers one of the chicks with affection then she bloats its significance. If, rather, the mother bird meets both chicks with their commonality in mind then neither is neglected. In time, when they are ready, the chicks will leave the nest of their own accord.

If we try to throw out all the pain then we are neglecting the fact that it is there. If we glorify the feelings we like then we bloat their significance and actually do ourselves a disservice. Much better than trying to get rid of the pain and capitalise on the nice feelings, is to reconcile the two. All our feelings occur within the same space. They are all part of some greater whole. If we treat the feelings superficially, based only on whether we like the sensations or not, then we neglect their true nature. If we turn and face the feeling, whatever it is, painful or not, and acknowledge it, accept it and notice how regardless of what feeling is coming up there is always something constant which is present during every different feeling, then we are no longer throwing the naughty chick out of the nest.

So, in this way, how to “handle your pain” becomes how to “recognise pain as God”. If you don’t like the word “God”, replace it with whatever doesn’t drive you crazy. Tao, the self, the universe, whatever. When this recognition occurs, the sharpness and the poignancy of pain is reduced. Instead, pain takes its rightful place as one of many, many sensations which we experience as humans. It doesn’t go away forever. Like all feelings, it comes and goes. It grows and swells and fades. This is part of a natural unfolding which is an unavoidable part of the apparent transpiration of form.

[Taken from a recent conversation between Andey Fellowes and a fellow spiritual seeker]

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