A few Mondays ago I put up a meditation on pain relief. Today I want to explore pain in a slightly different way. In particular, I want to examine our addiction to pain. This may not sound very joyful (the topic of this blog), but please, stay with me.
In the ancient text of yoga, the Bhadavas Gita, there is a definition of yoga that I’ve always found really useful in my relationship with pain. It translates: “Yoga is the severance of our union with pain.”
If you have done yoga before you may have experienced the same sense of peace and tranquility that keeps me coming back to my own mat. For me, yoga (and meditation) unearth the essence of what I am at my core- joy. And so, when yoga asks me to look at my pain I do.
Care to join me?
If I am really honest with myself I notice that I actually crave pain. Now, I don’t mean in a gross way. And some people DO hurt themselves in an obsessive manner- I’m not talking about that.
I’ll give you an example of what I am talking about. Do you ever notice that when you hear that someone has spoken negatively about you you become very interested in what they said. If someone insults you do you repeat it to yourself in your head many times too? Or am I the only one? If someone calls you a jerk they may have only said it once, but my guess is that, like me, you say it to yourself many more times.
Some of us have been repeating painful things people have said to us decades ago or when we were little kids on the play ground, long after they were said. But, most of us don’t obsessively repeat nice things people said to us. I think it’s the nature of most people’s minds to do this.
We tend to latch on and make a snowball effect by adding more negative thoughts. For instance, when someone calls us a jerk we could just say, “Huh. Yeah, I was a jerk, but I wont be a jerk any more.” and move on and live our life. Or we could say, “That person called me a jerk, but I’m not a jerk.” and move on with our day.” But typically we think “Who are they to call me a jerk! What kind of person does that?! When I see that person I’m going to…” In our mind we will kick up a storm of pain, a big mess of negative thinking that we just can’t/won’t let go of.
This is part of what the Bhadavas Gita is referring to: “Yoga is the severance of union with pain.” It’s not saying that it’s the elimination of pain. The wisdom in this is that part of human life is pain. AND part of it is pleasure.
What it is speaking to is the way that we value pain. So this is what I want us to exmin in this meditation. How do you nurture your union with pain? Let’s do an exercise where we use the power of meditation to unearth some of these attachments to pain.
When you have that feeling of pain (maybe when you look at that frustrating piece of landscaping in your front yard that gives you that catch of pain because you want it to change) there is actually a chemical that is being release in your body.
As a curions person and as a yogi I like to examine this. I like to look at my life, my mind, my body and my relationship with spirit and ask myself why I am experiencing so much pain around an event in my life. Am I cultivating this addiction to pain or am I able to sever that union?
The practices of yoga- asana, meditation, selfless service… have helped me to let go of some of my “painful stuff.” And my hope is that it can help you too!
When I do something that really nurtures me (like take a walk, do yoga, or have a warm bath) I start to switch over to a happy base line rather that a pain baseline. My default setting changes.
What do you do to release pain? Please share!