We are all well acquainted with pain. For those of us who practice physical asanas it’s more of a love-hate relationship with physical pain. Many times this physical pain helps in giving us a deeper lesson of life as was realized by my dear friend and a fellow Yogini Misa Derhy. Her struggle with one particular posture called the “cow-face” Gomukhasana made us contemplate a lot on the topic of pain and here’s what came up in my mind.
Pain is a physical sensation which cannot be notionally defined, in that senses it’s a deep experience which cannot be explained to some one who has not experienced it. To describe pain we have to vividly explain the acts that lead to pain and not pain itself. Derived from the Latin word “poena” meaning punishment the undesirable nature of pain is well understood.
Pain is standing at our door waiting to enter anytime it deems fit. It pursues us with seemingly unbroken pertinacity and probably because of this Buddha taught that all conditioned existence is suffering or pain. What gives it this right? We, have given it the right to chase us. We as humans desire pleasure but fail to understand that pain and pleasure are two sides of the same coin, a package deal, so to speak. In this war between wanting pleasure and not wanting pain we hope that some day we will win and be happy forever.
We desire and get attached to the desire. In life we either do not get what we desired which leads to pain or we get what we desired but it all turns to dust one day which also leads to pain. This is followed automatically with stress response, anxiety, clinging to these desires more and more and damaged self esteem.
Its only when we experience pain we sit up and ask deeper questions about life. It’s like going back to work after vacation when we try to stay away from thoughts of work and work related stress. Pain has smooth ways of operating. It arises, softens, breaks and destroys. But the spiritual person looks at the experience of pain as wisdom in disguise. If we examine the acts that lead to experience of pain we can see the Divine will wanting to make us understand some basic Truths of Life. This makes us realize that we need to surrender our Will to the will of the Divine every moment of our way.
Pain is a great teacher as it is a continuous reminder that all is not hunky dory in our existence, the discomfort arising out of pain makes us realize the uncertainty of our lives and the need to cultivate mental and physical balance. The terrible void that is felt at the loss of a loved one indicates the need to cultivate impersonal Love and compassion for one and all. People will come and go, near and dear ones may leave but the Love still binds us. This realization is a balm on the painful areas of our mind and heart.
It’s up to us to learn from our experiences. Often after a terrible experience and intense suffering we say “I just want to forget the whole thing as a bad dream”, unless it is a deep-reaching pain we do not learn from it. Many times we find ourselves getting used to it without much or any reflection. If we care to learn from each small experience of pain that we go through we would not be afraid but will be able to tackle it with balance and calmness in the future onslaughts.
A spiritual person who believes in the path is also affected by pleasure and pain, but the one who does not allow the pain to shake him/her in anyway is in a Stable state. This is a state of “yoga” as described in Bhagvad Gita chapter 2, which says “Yoga is Balance”. This state of balance can be achieved by assuming the position of an Observer. To cultivate this it is important to be constantly aware of Who we really are. The fact that we are more than this Body-mind complex helps us to rise above pain and pleasure by dedicated practice. A sturdy base of Self-acceptance also helps in firming the ground for balance. I believe that everything can be taken away from a spiritual person ( Yogi ) except one thing i.e. the freedom to choose one’s attitude in any set of given circumstances. The attitude of faith, confidence and surrender in Divine will. This attitude makes Life interesting and helps us add True deeper personal wisdom thus making us worthy of our suffering.
Do not lose hope in times of distress and adversity. People tend to lose Trust in themselves and the Divine Will (let’s call it God for ease) in times of pain. This reminds me of a beautiful composition that I once read. It describes the version of a person walking side by side with God on the beach. In life journey He observes 2 sets of foot prints one belonging to God and other to him. But he complains that in times of pain and suffering he notices only one set of footprints. He asks God “You said that once I decided to follow you, you would walk with me all the way, I do not understand why in times when I need you most you would leave me. God replies “ My precious child, I would never leave you during times of trials and suffering, when you saw only one set of foot print it was then that I carried you”.
The attitude of awareness, faith and balance comes only with practice. Its all up-hill work, whatever pain comes our way should be handled and used to the best advantage by developing the resources within our own nature. The clarity of purpose and the will to endure in order to derive wisdom from life are the two goals which can help us to be steady and positive in our Life. In this case Nietsche’s words are profound: “He who has a Why to Live for can bear with almost any How… That which does not kill me, makes me stronger.”
Love You all