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The difference between pain and suffering

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Wouldn’t we all like to live a life free of pain? I am sure we would, but it’s just not possible. But does that mean we have to suffer? No.

Pain is an integral part of life, and it all depends how we live it.

What is pain anyway? Basically, it is a sensation in our body that we don’t like to experience. It can appear to be simply physical, such as headaches or a sore back. And pain can also derive from an emotional experience, such as the loss of a loved on or the feeling of isolation and loneliness. But all of these experiences have one thing in common: All we want is for them to end, or to avoid them.

We resist painful experiences on many levels. Maybe we don’t let ourselves become aware of a pain at all, we repress it or project it on someone else. After all it is much easier to be angry at someone else for being disrespectful than to feel the pain of the sensation that we are not worth anything. Maybe we just don’t want to talk about what is hurting. Or we watch TV, or keep ourselves busy, or eat or drink, or do drugs. Or we just avoid the situation that would make us feel bad… there are millions of ways in which we – more or less effectively – avoid pain.

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When we just feel the sensation we experience, there does not have to be suffering.

That’s how suffering is created. We suffer when we resist a pain, and because of it. Think about it: The last time you felt a headache, how was the experience? Quiet likely, you felt the physical pain, and in addition you had some experience like thoughts such as: “Why does that have to be today”, “this sucks”, “why do I always get headaches”, “this is the worst day for having a headache”, “It will have … consequences”… and so on. And typically, those thoughts are accompanied by emotions such as guilt, anger,   And as we put out attention to the mental movie and the negative emotions about the pain and their meaning and reason, we shift away from experiencing the pain itself. Instead, we suffer. We become the victim. And we get stuck and very annoyed with the experience.

So basically, we suffer when we resist pain. And that means, we don’t have to suffer.

We can let go of resisting the pain, and thereby stop suffering. We can decide to welcome the experience of emotional or physical pain. A friend of mine used to call that “become one with the pain”. We focus on our body, rather than on the mind and our thoughts about the pain. We focus on the body, and what we experience there now. Maybe it is a pressure in the chest, or a weight that doesn’t let us breathe. And we explore: “How is it to feel this sensation NOW”. And whatever our mind answers, we always go back into the body and ask again and again, “and how do I experience or feel this now”.

I would love for you to try this, breathe into the sensation, and just sit with it. And then let the other readers know, what happened for you. Did you still suffer? Or how did you experience the pain? Could you experience that suffering is something you can let go of, even there is a pain?
 

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