Spirituality * Culture * Self-Expression

Month: October 2015

Pain vs. Suffering

Pain is inevitable


Many people today teach suffering: how to live with it, how to work through it, even how to benefit from it. But I teach ENLIGHTENMENT – with Enlightenment there is no suffering.

I know pain is inevitable. There will always be painful experiences in life – physical, emotional and spiritual. Pain really can’t be avoided. Suffering, however, is a matter of choice. Suffering is not the same as pain. Suffering is the result of holding onto the hurt long after the source has withdrawn.  It occurs in response to thoughts such as: “Why me?!” “It isn’t fair!” “This is horrible!” “I can’t stand it!”

Whereas pain is an experience, suffering is a perception




Pain is a signal that healing is required. Suffering is a result of repeated failure to act on that signal. That physical healing can relieve pain is obvious – but we forget that spiritual and emotional healing is also required. It is this type of healing that stops pain from turning into suffering.

Those who suffer have gotten into the habit of numbing or avoiding (through blame, resentment, anger, addictions, or compulsions), the pain-signals that would otherwise motivate the healing, repairing, or improving process.

It takes mindfulness and emotional reconditioning to break habits.

Is this easy? Of course not. However, it is absolutely possible. By adjusting our thinking, and how we think about our thinking, we can change our emotional responses, the extent to which we suffer (or not), our level of tension and stress, and in turn, our experience of pain.

helen keller quote


  1. Don’t embellish your story.

    Something hurt you in the past – a moment ago, a year ago, a life time ago. When you recount the incident, leave out the unnecessary drama about how the event “ruined” you. Give yourself the freedom to move on.

    A regular meditation practice can help you with this.

  1. Learn to embrace change and uncertainty.

    We live life in a series of moments. Instead of resisting the changes we face, choose to make the present moment more acceptable than the last. And remember the next moment could be completely different again.

  1. Smile, even if you don’t feel it inside.

    We have more power to change our mood than we realize. By creating a sort of positive feedback loop through smiling we can make a big difference in overcoming our own suffering rather than being entrenched in it.


Thich Nhat Hanh quote


  1. Break out of your usual routine.

    Sometimes suffering comes about because we’ve ground ourselves down into a rut. We obsess over our loss and can’t seem to think of anything else. At times like these, it helps to give our psyche and soul  a jump-start by doing something we wouldn’t normally do.

  1. Help ease someone else’s suffering.

    When we experience pain, it’s easy to isolate ourselves and believe that no one has it worse than we do.

    While whatever pain you are experiencing is unique to you, it helps to remember that all human beings share the capacity for joy and suffering. Having contact with someone else that is also having a difficult time and offering them simple kindness can be a great antidote to our own suffering.

  1. Remember your basic goodness.

    No matter how chaotic or negative the circumstances of our life, there is a ground of basic goodness in ourselves and in the universe that we can count on.


Rinpoche quote



When you are in the midst of deep pain, practice these points. They can help to remind you that in a multitude of ways, the universe is supporting you. And remember that while there is self-generated suffering, there is also self-generated happiness. Choose to be happy!





pampered cat

Sometimes I want to be like a beloved house cat – very important but with little to do.

I get tired of responsibility – especially self-imposed responsibility. When you’re a mystic you have the challenge of contributing to the spiritual evolution of the planet. This can be done in a multitude of ways – from committing to a regular meditation schedule up to being an outspoken, life-risking activist for social change and everything in between. It is not an easy challenge to accept.

The benefits associated with materialistic challenges are usually quite clear: money, power, fame, and the like. But mystical benefits are hidden – sometimes even from the person receiving them. Part of the challenge is not even looking for results or effects from your actions. The mystic merely assumes responsibility for carrying out certain activities for the good of all with no thought of reward.

Rembrandt The Philosopher in Meditation

This is maybe the most difficult aspect of the process – not thinking of rewards. When you do something with the expectation of receiving something in return you are participating in a contract. But for the mystic there is no contract – except perhaps in the same sense that breathing involves some form of contract. Our breathing accomplishes a lot of things in the world that we never pay attention to – releasing needed carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, for example – the least of which is keeping us alive. The responsibility associated with mystical work is similar to the responsibility of breathing – it maintains the functioning and growth of the whole organism whether we understand the process or not.


It would be nice to sit around and be pampered all day but that is not the fate of the mystic. The responsibility is ongoing and the rewards are uncertain. Yet, there is no other life I would choose – though it would be nice to be cosseted and praised sometime, for no reason in particular.




I’ve always been a mystical, spiritual person with a deep respect for all life forms. However, meat eating  seemed like such a natural and integrated function of society that I never really considered giving it up – at least not while I lived a work-a-day urban lifestyle. Wasn’t it true that our ancestors in the ice age had to eat meat to survive? And wasn’t it true, as scientists tell us, that meat eating contributed to, if not actually caused, our brain’s dramatic growth, thus making us a dominant life form? Other animals eat meat and humans are just animals so why shouldn’t we eat meat as well? And then there is the fact that plants are living things too – so why would it be ok to kill and eat plants but not to kill and eat animals?



There are a lot of interesting questions that can be raised around this subject – I admit, however, that I didn’t really think too much about them. I just did what everyone else did around me. Meat eating was, and is, a highly convenient way of life. Meat is available everywhere and society strongly encourages its consumption.

As I grew older, I became aware of certain health concerns around meat consumption – mostly related to the various additives, hormones, steroids and whatever else was used to turn animals into efficiently processed food products. And I found that there had always been health concerns associated with excessive red meat consumption. So I cut out red meat and most pork products and stuck to only lean chicken and turkey breast. I’m not convinced my health measurably improved with these choices.



Over time, however, I became aware of a much more serious issue – the “factory farm industry.” I watched several videos that exposed the rampant abuses of these food production businesses. Seeing the way animals were treated in the name of profit margins deeply upset me, and I determined that I would not support these industries at all. That’s what finally made me decide to change my diet.



I didn’t become a vegetarian for the sake of my health, but for the sake of the health of the cows, pigs, chickens and other animals horrible abused by the State sanctioned factory farm industry.

At first I was somewhat ok with people who raised food in what might be termed a more humane manner – and even with some hunters who actually ate what they killed. I thought at least in these circumstances the animals had a bit of a normal life before meeting a swift death. But I have come to realize now that there really isn’t any right or humane way to kill something that doesn’t want to die. And animals, like people, don’t want to die.


no right way

It’s safe to say, I think, that people online are not living in the ice age or in a nation that is so desperate for food that almost anything is consumable. We are living in the 21st century, in a fat, rich nation. We have choices. Humans are probably omnivores, meaning we can eat a lot of different things. And as omnivores eating meat is not an obligation it is a choice. For myself I choose to refrain from eating animals and animal products out of regard for their suffering. It’s a matter of compassion. This choice works well for me based on my observations of the world, but also with my long established mystical and spiritual sensibilities.

What you choose is up to you.


what to eat



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