Monday’s post touched on our weird ability to create unhappiness by holding certain preferences and then, when they fail to materialize, feeling miserable. Opportunities to get trapped in this cycle arise every day. This morning, for instance, I woke up with pain in my lower back. Oh no! was my immediate reaction. It’s my day off and I want to enjoy it. Wasn’t yesterday’s acupuncture treatment supposed to make this go away? %$#@! Now what? Will the pain run down the leg, along the sciatic nerve, the way it’s happening to a coworker who can barely stand up straight? I hate this, it scares me, poor me, and so on.
Sounds familiar? Looking objectively at this chain of events, I’m amazed how a simple sensation can lead to worrying thoughts, to panicky projections, to existential suffering. Meanwhile the pain changes back and forth between subtle and intense; it even disappears when my attention is distracted by some other sensation.
There is a common misunderstanding among all human beings (writes Pema Chödrön), that the best way to live is to try and avoid pain and just try to get comfortable. … A much more interesting, kind, adventurous, and joyful approach to life is to begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet.
To lead a life that goes beyond pettiness and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on our own terms, to lead a more compassionate, full, and delightful life than that, we must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is, how we tick and how this world ticks, how the whole thing just is.
source: Chödrön, P. (2001). The wisdom of no escape and the path of loving kindness. Boston: Shambala, p.3