Practice Staying with Pain: Run into It

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Only the Mind

Only the Mind

Run into it.  That is the practice, learning to stay with the pain; learning to be present.  That is the practice.  Be with the discomfort without trying to escape.  That is the practice.  Run into it.  Stay.

It is, admittedly, one that I do “badly,” the same way most of us say we meditate badly and then offer that as our excuse for not doing it.  We judge it.  I judge it.  I have to catch myself judging it and recognize that part of the practice is learning not to judge it. We’re missing the point, or at least I am missing the point.  The point isn’t to demonstrate what natural born meditators we are (to become good as things we need to practice)– the point is to train the mind.  Run into it.  Stay present.  Be with the pain, the discomfort.  Don’t try to escape.  What is the gift?  What is begging to be healed?

In our ACIM group last night, this came up.  One of the group was discussing the challenge of healing and how although she prays and uses lessons from the Course, she still has pain.  Lying on her back on the floor helps somewhat, but you could feel how frustrated she was.  The group reminded her that THAT is the practice.  That in the midst of whatever it is that we think shouldn’t be happening is the gift. But we have to treat it like a gift.  We need to be grateful to it.

I get how pain, particularly physical pain, doesn’t feel like a gift.  But what if we (I!) treated it like it was; like it is a gift?  What if instead of just enduring it or finding a way through, we embraced it full-tilt boogie?  Dive in.  Look around.  Hey, I’m here.  What are you trying to tell me?  I don’t know what you are trying to tell me.  Tell me what the fuck you are trying to tell me!  When I don’t get the answer right away, then I use that as my excuse for giving up.  I don’t stay with it.  I abandon it and go back to business as usual.  I don’t love it.  I resist it.

What if instead of condemning it, I recognized that it is a call for love?

Oh my!

I know for myself, pain is the crutch I use for escape.  It is my entryway into addiction; my excuse for not being present.  I’m in pain – sometimes it’s physical, sometimes it’s emotional or mental (stressed out), but the pain is the trigger for slipping away from life.  I turn on the TV.  I play on my computer.  I have a glass of wine.  I escape for a little while.

I am not condemning R & R.  I’m not.  I’m not judging or begrudging anyone’s right to tune out for a while, I’m just noticing that for myself, avoiding pain can be a slippery slope.  It can be the place where rather than running to God, I stop living.  I don’t meditate, I watch TV.  I don’t talk to God, I tune out.

I’m searching for a place to rest, what the Buddhist sometimes refer to as the search for solid ground.  I’m looking around for a pause button.  Stop the world, I want to get off.  I want relief from pain without the messiness of running into it.  Even writing about God or teaching my ACIM class can be traps because as long as I teaching, I don’t have to do.

But the joke’s on me because teaching is how you learn it. “You cannot teach what you have not learned, and what you teach you strengthen in yourself because you are sharing it. Every lesson you teach you are learning.”

Run into it.  I’ve been saying that for years and I believe in the value of it, but it often feels like I’m running into a burning building and then I start to question my sanity.

Yet noticing how bad my practice it is part of practice: it’s learning to be compassionate with myself.  It’s letting go of judgment about it.  It’s surrender.

Nothing goes away until we “get” the lesson.  It just comes around in another form, and frequently the new version is harsher than the original, or at the very least, I discover nuances that I failed to notice the first run through. It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary.     

I suppose that life is the proving ground for Holy vision.  Can I really learn to be grateful for everything?  Can I ever learn to see God everywhere and give up thinking that I know better?  Will I ever feel that it’s all a blessing?  Even those things I’m inclined not to like or appreciate?

Run into it.  It doesn’t matter how messily or imperfectly I do things.  It’s doesn’t matter that in this moment I want to think that I ”should” do better.  It’s all just practice.  It’s all just learning to extend love over and over and over.

Nothing real can be threatened.  The game is rigged.

Namaste, my friends, Namaste.



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