Doesn’t it suck when something is hurting? A headache, a bloated belly, sore muscles. It can be super frustrating to the point where it starts to impede on our mood and even our productivity.
Well consider this: there are two aspects to our suffering…
- The pain itself;
- The commentary around the pain itself.
Let’s break that down. What is pain? Pain is defined as “highly unpleasant physical sensations caused by illness or injury”. Hold on a second there…if pain is sensations that we perceive in our body, then what makes them seem unpleasant? We’ll fill in the gap for you. Sensory receptors pick up that an injury has occurred, and send messages via our nerves to the brain. The brain then receives the messages, processes the information and registers it as pain. That’s when our mind steps in. It responds by rejecting and having aversion to these sensations. It might sound something like this: “Ouch, I have a headache. Again. I had one last week. Why does this always happen to me? I wish I didn’t have a headache right now. It’s going to take ages to go away. It’s so annoying. I’d be so much happier right now if I didn’t have a headache. I just want to go home and sleep. I still have the WHOLE day to get through. Life sucks….etc etc”. It’s like a broken record.
What if our mind could sound something more like this? “Hmm, my head hurts. They are just physical sensations. Yes they are uncomfortable but at least I know that they will soon pass. I’m going to focus on something else now”.
The bottom line is, we experience suffering through our own mental response to the physical pain itself. If we can learn to reduce our commentary, we can reduce our suffering as well! So our challenge to you this week is to simply begin to distinguish between the physical sensations themselves (pain) and the unproductive mental chatter around the sensations themselves (suffering). Good luck!