Saturday, April 04, 2009


The degree to which we turn our pain into suffering is the degree to which we obstruct our own healing.

I've been engaging with pain a lot the past couple of days.  The transitory physical pain of minor illness, the long term emotional pain of grief and heartbreak, the illuminating pain of spiritual exploration of the edges of compassion and conflict, courage and fear.

I am in the middle of a practicum in Integral Psychotherapy with Robert Masters and Diane Bardwell-Masters, so this is not simply a casual exploration. I am learning on myself, nothing new as y'all know, and also on fellow practicum mates and practice clients.  

So the edge that fascinates me most is the dynamic space where pain and suffering dance.  How quickly one becomes the other and how slowly and how much work it takes to unweave the knot of suffering from around our pain.  And when i add on the layer of spirit, it gets even more interesting.  Then compassion and its counterfeits enter the arena.  Then my aspirations jostle with my abilities of the moment and reality and spiritual ambition spar.  

I am amazed at how fast pain converts to suffering.  When i pay attention, i find it is such an habituated response.  Pain is felt and then almost immediately the storytelling starts. And then we're off into the dramatics of our suffering, the siren call that keeps us asleep. The song of Maya sinuously weaving a tapestry of illusion so tight and fine we mistake it for truth and name it our reality. Humming an addictive distraction from the simple pain that could awaken us--that could align our perception more closely to What-Matters-Most. 

I'm still working on how to write about my own inner journey.  So until next time, here are some gems i came across in my explorations today.  First some lyrics from Melissa Etheridge that tell the harsh truth:

Everybody's got a hunger
No matter where they are
Everybody clings to their own fear
Everybody hides some scar

Precious pain
Empty and cold but it keeps me alive
I gave it my soul so that I could survive
Keeping me safe in these chains
Precious pain
Then some from Robert Masters' new book, "Meeting the Dragon" (avail free here):
Where pain is consciously felt hurt, suffering is the conversion or manipulation of that hurt into some level of melodrama, wherein we are likely so busy acting out --and being literally occupied by--our hurt role that we've little or no motivation to stand apart from or illuminate it.  
As we step back from the dramatics of our suffering, we start to see through our role as the sufferer, and to also see our investment in that role.
It is in the conscious and compassionate entry into our pain that we begin to find some real freedom from our suffering. 
The healing of pain is found in pain itself. As we become more intimate with our pain, we find that we are less and less troubled by it.  Suffering is , among other things, a refusal to develop any intimacy with our pain.  In fact, suffering jails our pain.
And from Barbara Kingsolver, some lyric prose:
In my own worst seasons i've come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing: a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window.  and then another: my daughter in a yellow dress.  And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon.  Until I learned to be in love with my life again.  Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, i have taught myself joy, over and over again.
 In solidarity with the broken many,

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