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Be at Peace with the Pain of Others

sunrise-over-the-clouds-picture-id595343542 Be at Peace with the Pain of Others

Can you stay open to the pain of others?

The Practice:
Be at peace with the pain of others.

Why?

Humans are an empathic, compassionate, and loving species, so it is natural to feel sad, worried, or fiery about the troubles and pain of other people. (And about those of cats and dogs and other animals, but I’ll focus on human beings here.)

Long ago, the Buddha spoke of the “first dart” of unavoidable physical pain. Given our hardwired nature as social beings, when those we care about are threatened or suffer, there is another kind of first dart: unavoidable emotional pain.

For example, if you heard about people who go to bed hungry – as a billion of us do each night – of course your heart would be moved. I’m usually a pretty calm guy, but when I visited Haiti, I was in a cold rage at the appalling conditions in which most people there lived. On a lesser scale but still real, a friend’s son has just started college and is calling home to tell his mom how lonely and miserable he feels; of course she’s worried and upset.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Labyrinth to Shared Happiness

rainheart Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Labyrinth to Shared Happiness

Though I run to get out of the rain, it’s standing in the rain with my hands on my heart that is cleansing. Though I run from the pain, it’s standing in the pain with my face to the sky that is healing. So I never stop peeling the hurt, never stop trusting life to burst through whatever I have to face. Even when lost, there’s a truth we carry that—when released—can return us to the ground beneath all trouble, beneath all pain, beneath the worm in our mind that wants to run. Facing things together is how we move through the labyrinth of trouble, from thinking alone to feeling together. So when my head is burrowed in what I can’t put down, when I can’t find what I’ve just said, please, hold your kindness like a mirror, so I can begin again. Tell me that, hard as it is to accept, the path is right where we are, when too exhausted to chase anything. Remind me that the angels we seek flutter within us, using our hands as their wings.

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Ending the Pain and Fear

Ending the Pain and Fear Ending the Pain and Fear

Throughout your life you have had experiences that were painful. Those experiences made you first feel unsafe and when you feel unsafe fear arises. It is a natural reaction. You live with expectations that you will be loved, kept safe, be accepted and made to feel worthy, but there are people and circumstances that shake that belief. As a child maybe you were punished or spoken harshly to. Maybe you were made fun of by other children. Maybe as a teen you were rejected by a friend or embarrassed or you failed at something. As an adult you might have been cheated on or divorced. Maybe you lost a child or a spouse. Now the world doesn’t feel safe and loving.

These experiences created pain and that pain became personalized. You recreated yourself to be more loved, accepted and worthy. You hid the parts of you that were rejected by others or what you saw as your flaws. Your pain was the thorn that moved you from living in love to living in fear. It separated you from others because you felt you couldn’t be yourself, authentically, and still be loved. But most importantly the fear separated you from your Self.

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How We Are Feeding Our Pain Without Knowing

Durga-Magnetta-how-we-are-feeding-our-pain-without-knowing

With the many obstacles we face on a daily basis, it is easy to fall victim to negativity and fear. The level of possible difficulty we may need to face in life knows no limit. Not assuming the worst case scenario can be difficult.

 
There are two major reasons for this. First, it is the job of the left-logic side of the brain to assess all possible outcomes in an effort to prepare us and protect us against what is to come. Secondly, it is a chance for our pain bodies to feed.

 

While watching this process in myself, I noticed that my mind brought several different negative outcomes and inspired fear and dread when I was faced with even simple changes and obstacles. I had to deliberately change the course of things if I wanted to be solution oriented.

 

As people we end up stewing over possible negative outcomes before seeing that the situation is working itself out. For the most part, things work out in the best possible way. Yet we will fall prey to this mechanism almost every time we are faced with change.

 

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