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The difference between Pain and Suffering

I genuinely believe that words have energy and power within them to heal. Case in point, these two quotes pointed to me in a different direction that would eventually save my life.

The first one was a line in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche said, "Whatever you do, do not try to escape your Pain. BE WITH IT". The second quote was from Rumi (1207-73), the greatest Sufi mystic and poet, who said, "The cure for pain is in the pain. Rumi"

I had become an expert at avoiding pain, and addiction just happened to be the most excellent way. But eventually, even the using stopped working, and the pain was all I knew, just like the two quotes predicted. Leaving me with what seemed like only two choices; take my life to stop the pain or learn how to sit with pain and be OK.

Strictly speaking, there is no way to get rid of suffering until we stop using and begin to cradle and embrace the pain. Only then, can we observe what the pain and suffering are really about and learn healthy ways to heal them?

And There Is A Difference Between Pain And Suffering.

Very simply, pain is the physical and emotional experience within our body that tries to tell us something is happening within our body.

Suffering, on the other hand, is how we interpret the pain. Our interpretations are coming from our thoughts, judgements, beliefs etc.) What meaning (attachment) do we give to the pain and this is why suffering can also be optional.

“It isn't what happens to us that causes us to suffer; it's what we say to ourselves about what happens”. ~ Pema Chodron

My Mistaken Identity was a whole bunch of pain that I had turned into suffering by attaching my identity to it. As the great Buddha said, "The root of suffering is attachment." So remember, pain and suffering will increase if we run or numb or deny. There is no other way. Trust me, I tried everything else.

Inevitably, all of us will have to endure physical, emotional, mental suffering - like, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age and eventually death. And our fearful brains will try anything and everything to convince us to NOT sit with the pain. But are we not our fearful brains any more than we are the pain. We are spiritual beings of Light —timeless and powerful beyond measure.

This suffering quote by Viktor E. Frankl from his famous memoir "A Man's Search for Meaning" says it all;

"To draw an analogy: a man's suffering is similar to the behaviour of a gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the "size" of human suffering is absolutely relative."

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl's memoir describes life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. From his own experience and the stories of his patients, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering, but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.

I had to stop escaping the pain through addiction and finally face myself. The self, who had mistaken - who I was. It was by undoing my Mistaken Identity and helping others that I found my recovery and meaning. My worst nightmare eventually became my greatest gift.

But without compassion and meditation, we will not be able to look deeply into ‘why we suffer’ and begin to understand the actual cause. Compassion is a must, not a maybe and it must come from others and ourselves. Meditation literally saved my life because 1) it was how I learned to sit with pain and be OK and 2) I discovered the real reasons I suffered.

This post is copyright protected from my upcoming book "Mistaken Identity" However it still can be shared on FB.

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