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Why Emotional Pain Doesn't Have to Lead to Suffering

Pain that is met consciously does not grow into suffering.
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Physical feelings of pain are familiar signals to us all. In general we note the discomfort and naturally make attempts to correct the cause. This is our innate intelligence at work. And when the pain is simple, and simple corrections are made, all is well. The sensation of pain is forgotten until the next time it is needed.

Emotional pains are usually not simple, and when they grow into emotional suffering, they can influence the entire worldview of their host. We either know directly from our own experience or through our empathy with others' experience that some really terrible things happen to hurt people emotionally. Unjust things done to innocent people. Things we cannot in good conscience blithely dismiss as "perfect."

It is natural that a story arises with emotional pain. There is usually an event or a person that "causes" the pain. It may be initially important to tell the story and learn the lessons, or take whatever action is appropriate. Quite often that event or person also echoes earlier versions of emotional pain with similar stories. As legitimate as the story (or stories) may be, when they are played and replayed in the thought process, emotional pain grows into emotional suffering. The pain then becomes a signal of all that has gone or could go wrong, rather than a simple signal for correction. And yet when emotional pain is met without the inevitable story that arises with it, it too disappears from memory in the same way simple physical pain does.

Often we believe that to stop retelling the story of emotional pain is to somehow be disloyal to ourselves. We feel that in staying true to the story of our hurts we are being true to ourselves! Because of this (false) ideal of self-loyalty, we then begin to define ourselves by our emotional pain. To define yourself by your emotional pain is to suffer unnecessarily.

Pain that is met consciously does not grow into suffering. To suffer we need time and a continuing story. "My mother...." "He or she or they...." "I am or am not..." To continue the story guarantees the birth and continuance of suffering, and the avoidance of the pure feeling underneath all internal dialogue.

The "correction" for emotional pain may initially feel counterintuitive. Rather than moving away from the pain, we must meet emotional pain directly and intimately. It is an intimate meeting. Only you and your pain are present. And that requires that all other characters in your story of causes and betrayals and injustices be temporarily erased. It requires the intimacy of becoming one with the pain. Not in an indulgent, dramatic version of "Me Being One With The Pain," but a simple and sober quiet merger of attention into the sensation of pain.

Where do you feel the hurt? If you let your full attention fall into that area, leaving behind any part of any story about what caused it, even leaving the names pain and hurt behind, you discover pure energy. When we don't judge this energy, even if it feels uncomfortable or worse, we can get even closer. We can get so close that we are actually one with it. And we can stop there. We can simply be there, in the spaciousness of the endless open mind.

The challenge then is to give up the identity of the one who was or is being hurt. That giving up only requires us to stop retelling the story of how we were hurt, who hurt us, how badly it hurts, why it shouldn't have happened, and on and on and on.

In simply refusing to tell that story again, you have the immediate opportunity to meet directly the pain underneath the story. That's all that is needed for the suffering to be finished!

If the emotional suffering reappears, there is some story attached to it. Again, you have the choice to release the story and intimately meet the pain.

Pain that is unmet becomes suffering.
Pain that is met is not pain.

Please see for yourself and let me know!

Gangaji will be in Boston for a public meeting September 12th, and in Woodstock for a public meeting September 14. She will hold a seven day retreat at Garrison Institute, NY, beginning September 16th. Read more about Gangaji's events and catalog of books and videos online.