Innate Wisdom




 Secular Life




Pain is part of the body's magic. It is the way the body transmits a sign to the brain that something is wrong. - Norman Cousins

Pain can come in all shapes and sizes. The most obvious is physical pain which can come in the form of an achy muscle or joint, for instance. More often than not, this is the body telling us that there may be an injury that requires rest to heal. Pain may remind us of an unrealized splinter, or the fact that we are slouching and should have better posture. Even internal pains are an alert that there may be something significant which requires attention. Basically, pain, in and of itself, is not the main issue. It is our system's means of 'waving a red flag' to get our attention. Like it or not, there is generally a greater purpose to pain, and if we relegate all our efforts to simply relieving the pain, we run the risk of missing the message it is sending.

 We can rest contentedly in our sins and in our stupidities, and anyone who has watched gluttons shoveling down the most exquisite foods as if they did not know what they were eating will admit that we can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. - C.S. Lewis

Pain is not only a symptom of the physical world, however. People can experience emotional pain through loss or trauma. The grief associated with the loss of a loved one, or the loss of love in general is most certainly a painful experience. The trauma of abuse in any of its abhorrent forms can leave painful scars even years later. The body heals far more quickly than the mind or the heart, but the pain is no less real and no less significant. Once again, though, the pain is a reminder of a lesson to be learned. Buddhists will say that we feel this kind of pain because of our resistance to letting go. When we address that which is painful, we can see it clearly, work through the attachments, then release it. When we let go of the past, it can no longer harm us. We can then move on with a clear head and a light heart.

Another pain that is less discussed, but no less real is a pain of the spirit. Loneliness and feeling disconnected can be a pain as real as any other. Feelings of not having a purpose or worth can be such an intense pain that it can drive some to suicide. When they think they have no other option, this unfortunate act may be the only way to relieve the torture. This can be the most difficult type of pain to help. It is completely internal to the individual feeling it. No matter how much that person may be told otherwise, they remain trapped in their very own personal Hell. The person may actually be loved and appreciated, but their cold fortress is too dark to allow entrance to even the smallest ray of light.

The only salvation from this nightmare is to give oneself over to a greater purpose. Basically, the reasoning goes, "I might be worthless, but if I can help someone else, even a little bit, then I have a reason for living." This direction has been shown to help rehabilitate even the most hardened criminals. Studies have shown that when maximum security inmates were given responsibility for the health and well-being of small animals (puppies, rabbits, etc), their entire demeanor changed. Someone was relying on them, so they had to be responsible. Ultimately, this gave them a reason for being, and on a very real level allowed them to experience love. 

It is truly love that cures the pain. Whether it is Androcles removing the thorn from the lion's paw, or inmates hugging bunnies, love opens our hearts to the Greater Good. When we realize that we are only a part in a bigger puzzle, we can remove the attachments that cause suffering. Our pain can then be our guideposts rather than our guillotine. 

 If you are visited by pain, examine your conduct. - Talmud

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