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Pain


Wouldn’t it be really cool if somebody just told you the truth? Wouldn’t that be something?

Where is the truth hiding, seriously?


The truth is that once in a while, life tears you open.

And the truth is that when it does, the first thing you want to do is get a bandaid.


But the truth is, sadly, horribly, that if you just patch it up and move on, you are missing one of the few opportunities that life will give you to fix a problem.


So how do we fix a problem?


I’ve encountered this question many times before… There is obviously a problem, something is wrong, something needs fixing… but how?


What kind of life am I aiming for? What will it look like? What do I really want to change?


I’ve found myself facing these questions a number of times in my life. The truth is that I don’t have any one answer for them. Each time I have encountered them, the solution was quite different. Sometimes I was groping in the dark for years, thinking that it mattered to me a lot, but in truth I was not really getting anywhere with my so-called “search”. But I can say one thing that characterized all of the times that I did find my way out: I just wasn’t willing to take it anymore. I was fed up, sick to my stomach, and I couldn’t take another breath without facing this pain. For me, so many times in my life, that has been where true healing began: I just couldn’t take it anymore.


And what then?

The truth is that, from what I have seen, as long as you are MOVING with INTENTION, you will get where you want to go - even if you don’t yet know where that is. It may certainly take time, and you might make plenty of wrong turns on the way, but if you just keep moving and you put true intention into it, then in the words of S.N. Goenka, you are “bound to be successful”.


In the beginning, it is difficult to see where you are trying to get. So ask yourself: Where am I now? And the important aspect is: How do I feel? And here is the million-dollar hint that nobody wants to hear: Start from your pain.

Explore your pain. Don’t explore the reasons for it - those are in your head. Explore the NATURE of your pain: What does it really feel like? Observe your pain. Move from your pain. Let it wash over you. In the words of the Buddha, embrace it as a mother would embrace her child. In order to find your direction, you need to be fully aware of how you feel. FEEL, not think. Avoid your temptation to put your pain into words. AVOID IT! I hate to say this, but the answers will not come from your head. If you can think of a solution, do yourself a favor and flush that solution down the toilet. The real “aha” moments in life come on their own, when we have a visceral experience. Then a soul vibration might begin deep inside our guts, and it may form into a bubble and make its way up to the surface until we can finally put it into words. But that happens on its own; the experience itself is entirely wordless. Let it be that way. Respect it. Don’t look for words, look for experiences. If your mind tries to explain them, ignore it. Only the experiences themselves are real.


It is also tempting to focus on the person that “did this to you“. Don’t focus on them. That is not where you will find any solutions. Focus on your own pain.


Focus on it until you are no longer afraid of it. Do it until you can relax with your pain. And then you will begin to feel it change.


How?

One of the things I like to do when something is bothering me is what I call a “shopping spree”: I just go out and try a whole bunch of different things that I think might help. I ask for advice, I try different modalities of therapy and healing, and eventually I find one that feels right. And I am not looking for something that makes me feel better. On the contrary: I am looking for something that enables me to feel my pain in a safe way. The biggest hint that I am on the right track is not relief, it’s FEAR. That is the direction I need to go in; otherwise, I am only running away.


And you may be surprised that underneath your pain - is more pain. Realer pain. More primal pain. The pain that you hated so much that you had to come up with an easier pain, a lighter pain, to cover up the first. And yes, you will probably discover that there are more levels below that one as well. But someday you will reach the bottom. Yes, there is a bottom. And when you stand on the bottom, and your deepest pain has become familiar to you, you will know what the truth is. And you will know what love is. And you will know what beauty really is.


If you have trouble, get help. If you cannot find your pain - rest assured that it is there - get help. If you do not know what to do with it, or how to handle it, get help. Help is easy to find, and never more than a phone call or a web search away.

But don’t try to tell your pain how to change, or how fast to change. This is the “great faith “ that Zen speaks about. Give your pain time, and let it decide.

Do this a little bit at a time, one step at a time. Time is your greatest ally. Time, and love - from yourself, and from others.


But if you skip past your pain, if you only focus on your hopes for the future, if you only look for the solutions, without fully acknowledging the pain, then your pain will come with you wherever you go. And the truth is that further down the road, life will hit you again - only harder.


If ever in your life you cannot find the truth, it is quite simple: Just look under your fear.

Photo by Parij Borgohain, pexels