The practice of pain is a lonely one. Mentally dealing with physical pain and emotional anguish is most often a solitary endeavour. It takes so much energy; and when in extreme pain, it can be difficult to physically speak. Then, when the pain subsides, there may be no words to describe the suffering that has been experienced on every level of your being.
At some point, the separation between physical and emotional pain can be lost and their colours run together so that emotional pain is felt physically.
I’ve found that pain can become a mental habit, too. Expecting life to be painful, one reacts to it as if everything will hurt, regardless of what is actually happening. It’s pretty disempowering. So I’m trying to relate differently to life. It’s a practice of many steps, starting with the present moment – again and again.
I read something recently which resonated very deeply. Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book True Love, writes about what happens when meditators leave their community. He likens it to what happens when a tiger descends from a mountainous jungle, in order to wander the plains.
“A practitioner who leaves the sangha is like a tiger who has left the mountains and gone down to the plains. If the animal does that, he will be killed by humans; and if the practitioner of meditation does not take refuge in a community, in a sangha, he will abandon his practice after a few months. Thus a sangha is absolutely necessary for continuing one’s practice.”
Part of what I’m doing at the moment is reconnecting to things which nourish and sustain me. I’ve realised that I cannot live in isolation anymore. Even if I have no words to describe my past experiences, I urge myself to remember that each new day offers the chance of renewal. Each new day requires me to make a choice about how to live right now.
Today I went to a gathering at my faith community. I felt like a tiger leaving the barren plains, drawn to the mountainous jungle by brilliant flashes of lightening around the summit.
Fed with loving kindness today, may I find the courage to live once more amongst this community on the sacred mountain. May my heart grow in its capacity for trust and love and friendship. If I ever get lost again on the plains, may I always find my way back to this blessed sangha.