a buddhist’s sense of suffering

IMG_2872bOLD NOTEBOOKS: CHIANG MAI: I’m lying with an IV drip in my arm and exactly why, I don’t know right now, but there’s also a laser beam directed into my vein along with the needle. So presumably, laser light is present all through the circulatory system as the chelation fluid enters my body. This special treatment may provide a cure in the long term for the PERMANENT HEADACHE I’m learning to live with… who knows, I’ll try anything, and at least they treat you well here. I’m laid-back in a comfortable soft TV lounger but instead of TV watching I’m looking out into a small garden with birds to watch and scribbling notes on a print-out from the first draft of this post… careful of the pain from the needle in my left arm.

FullSizeRender (7)I have to say, this is about my experience of headaches, discomfort and suffering so if you don’t like the thought of reading more about pain, click the button and get away from here now! But if you’re curious and interested in the buddhist sense of suffering, think of any kind of discomfort you have experienced and consider this: it’s the struggle to get away from pain that causes the suffering. The energy used in trying to get away from it just fans the flames and makes it what it is. And, because it’s habitual, maybe a lifetime of doing it like this, things just go on and on until I see the only thing that’s preventing me from letting go of suffering is that I’m still holding on to it.

This insight into suffering comes about, not by choice, but by allowing yourself to be in a no-choice situation – or maybe it’s like that; there’s no other way, absolutely no escape. And, what I’m talking about here will be familiar to sufferers of chronic pain, usually you do everything in your power to not even think about this kind of thing, so there’s a kind of unpreparedness about it. Unknowingly you’re caught like the proverbial rabbit hypnotized by the circling predator. Helpless, you give up, go stumbling towards the pain and unexpectedly, a door opens inside that place and there’s an easing. You discover it’s a mind thing; the habitual action to get away from it is the cause of the pain… it’s this vortex you get to in the end that leads to the discovery of the moment of easing held in the center of pain. I feel the moisture of an eye-blink, the absolute physicality of being here.

There’s a strange kind of time shift about it, it’s somehow not until after it’s happened you notice time skips a beat. It’s somewhere around here that the realization happens; ignorance is displaced by the knowledge of it, awareness floods in and there’s an acceptance of this new direction towards pain; you let it in enough to somehow find a release from it. It’s an immediate understanding that somehow you know you’ve gone through it, so you can’t be ‘held’ by it anymore There’s a real sense of achievement, you are bigger than it; there’s motivation, energy, freedom.

How to apply this? A conceptual understanding of the release forms; it’s more than an acceptance of the pain, it’s an embracing of the pain – an expanding awareness that pain is not a thing you carry along with you. Dispose of all the heaviness; it’s something to be travelled through. It’s this that lets it go (frees it). The knot in the string is undone. Can’t be explained, not a conscious understanding… just that something is changed inside the thinking process, a felt difference – “felt” rather than “thought to be” – and the suffering is suddenly not there anymore.

‘We learn how to let go, in the process of observing the consequence of our grasping.’  [Ajahn Munindo, Dhammasakaccha]


Note: excerpts from an earlier post: things not being right and special thanks to Pennycoho for our short exchange in the comments box long ago   –   G   R   A   T   I   T   U   D   E   –

66 thoughts on “a buddhist’s sense of suffering

  1. I hope the therapy helps long term.
    The experience sounds similar to how you learn to live with tinnitus. It is always there…there is no such thing as silence any more. The minute you focus on that as a distressing thought, that becomes a problem. The rest of the time, silence quietly moves its boundaries to embrace the sound.

  2. Thank you for sharing your insights into pain. I cannot imagine the pain you have suffered. i do know that when I go to the dentist I learned to observe and accept the pain rather than trying to mentally run away from it. In that acceptance the pain is still there, but no longer dominates.

    • Thanks barryh, it’s something like this, in the acceptance of it, the pain is still there but no longer dominates. I notice when I focus on that observation, I’m flickering between these two states; pain and no pain. For some buddhists, this is the entry point in meditation investigation. Pain is the suffering experienced in every day life. I’m trying to see it like this…

  3. Oh, wow! Have come across the treatment protocol in a few of the Eastern journals, but never thought I’d ever find anyone who’d undergone the treatment. It may sound frontier like to many of your Western readers, but laser blood irradiation has been around since the 80’s. Will be most interested in your experience of the treatment (hyperbole seems to be the key to any published review of such… 😉 )
    Wishing success and every relief.

    • Hey thanks! I’m glad to hear you know about this I was hoping to get some input. They recommend another 20 sessions which I’ll do when I get back from India. Already I feel there’s a difference. Can’t see what it is exactly except that one day I was lying with the IV and laser in my arm and I figured something out, wrote this post but still can’t seem to express what it is. Just a lifting of the weight and enough to see what it is…

      • Well, it’s all a bit vague in the West, where both therapies (chelation and blood laser irradiation) are (ridiculously) considered Eastern quakery. Especially if we consider that the West have approved chelation in the treatment of heavy metal poisoning (http://www.webmd.com/balance/tc/chelation-therapy-topic-overview ), and are fairly sold on possibilities of blood irradiation in the treatment of a variety of blood related disorders (http://www.webermedical.com/en/weber-medical-for-professionals/med-lasertherapy/intravenous-laser-therapy/ ).

        There have been various, properly controlled, scientific studies over the years (some of which have proven controversial in their own right… lol http://edition.cnn.com/2012/11/04/health/chelation-heart-study/ ) but nothing like sitting on the fence until some bright spark can find a way to patent it as their own…

        My interest piqued in the laser therapy option a couple of years back, when I discovered the noted “side effect” of reducing symptoms of tinnitus – a “blessing” shared by Sue, apparently… Unfortunately, not a treatment option in the closed (minded) corridors of the NHS. Yet! 😉

        Glad to hear you have noticed a difference, all be it undefinable, already! Fingers crossed the effects are maintained through the sessions. 🙂

      • Thanks for this comprehensive reply, let me study the references after this. It does seem quite ridiculous when the West attempts to dismiss therapy developed from Eastern wisdom which may have evolved for centuries and before the US was formed. The internet reveals all kinds of things thankfully and I’m grateful for these links. Interesting to know about laser therapy and tinnitus. I’ll have time to see the effects of this therapy when I come back for my next session.

  4. This laser light sounds like an interesting treatment. Will look forward to hearing the result. I haven’t heard of it before.

    Suffering is such a personal thing…and yet, something that affects all of us.

    In the past I thought that no one could understand such pain and suffering until I saw that everyone is affected by the ‘suffering’ and that everyone has a story to tell of (it). Physical, mental or spiritual.

    • Thanks Vicki, good to hear from you again. I’ll find out more about the laser treatment as we go along and share it here.
      You’re right about pain and suffering being a personal thing. Everybody would agree with that except that nothing is said. We come from a culture that sees pain as something ‘bad’. People don’t want to talk about it because it is thought to trigger a curious sense of guilt. Pain is pain but there’s also resistance, the unwillingness to take the step towards the pain enough to see our own avoidance behaviour flickering around it, and if possible, to develop a kind of steadiness. An awareness of breathing helps, get it to slow down a bit… and there you are, maybe for the first time ever, consciously seeing the pain for what it is instead of trying to avoid it. If more of us could get to that place, there’d be a lot of shared experience.

  5. What a wonderful sharing, thank you and wishing you much success with this treatment in that you might be lifted out of the pain on a permanent basis. How wonderful you have learned to go inside of it, something I had to learn once too. For me once the pain and the experience was over (surgery) after a course of time, in many ways I forgot the lessons I learned, and so life gave me some more. I hope you are able to keep this one in your soul, unlike me. Thank you, again for sharing your story. Also interested in knowing if this type of therapy works well.

    • Thanks for your observation about learning to go inside of the pain, whenever possible. I had surgery in the abdomen 20 years ago and like you, I had an opportunity to enter into, rather than step back from. The thing that was uppermost in my mind however was that I’d get better. What’s happening now with PHN on the right side of the head and upper neck is that it could get slightly better after about 5 years possibly, but it may not actually get ‘better’. So this is when we’re thankful for the earlier experience of acute pain that we simply cannot get away from, I am able open up to it to the extent that it’s possible. And this is how I’m learning to live with it now – some enthusiasm at times, mostly a quiet being-with…

      • Thank you for your good wishes and I’m so glad to have the opportunity to share this and read about your own experience. I’m learning so much from everyone here…

  6. I do hope the laser works and you are free of these headaches. I practice the disconnecting from the pain. Most of the time it works. It doesn’t work for the fatigue. When I push through the fatigue it only drains me further.

  7. This post has been very helpful to me Tiramit. I’ve recently had some test results come back not as I would have liked them. It’s probably nothing, (further tests necessary) but in the meantime off tears the imagination like a racehorse! Whoa! I said, this is not the way. Worry is the misuse of imagination. But the mind is so fickle and just when you’re not watching it it creeps off along the path of ‘What ifs’. Mental worry and fear can turn your bones to water in a second. Fear, resistance, and avoidance of what ‘might be’ can immobilize you and cause immense distress. You have described the need to embrace physical pain. I think it’s also necessary to embrace the possibilities of the unknown, and your post has given me a renewed determination. Thank you! 🙂

    • Hey Jude! I’m really sorry to hear you’ve had this diagnosis, I know how this must be (when I understood that my PHN is a permanent condition), the imagination let loose like a racehorse. It’s an apt metaphor; mind goes carreering off in the opposite direction from the distress then is yanked back unwillingly perhaps and struggling to get away – all kinds of fearful images created by the struggle. Worry is the misuse of imagination, the mind is creative no matter what the stimuli. The ‘what if’ works whether it’s good for you or bad for you. You can say what if I try to change my lifestyle around a bit? And the response is constructive, in the same way it can take you to pieces if it’s let loose in a subtly negative direction.
      Necessary to embrace the possibilities of the unknown, I recognize this and it’s not easy; the unknown is like that – this is how it is. But looked at, not in a fearful way created by unknowing proliferation of thought (samsara), the unknown is also enlightenment, revelation, any of these terms. So it’s both-and. What I learned was that it’s necessary to see what is really happening, the truth of it all. Sounds to me you know already the way this has to go. I’m glad you’re feeling determined to see it as it is. I wrote this post during a period of great enthusiasm, in fact I find there’s no words for it. Let’s see how everything goes in the immediate present, step by step.

      • Thanks Tiramit, this has already been a great lesson for me. Definitely one of mind control. It’s so much about being in the now, and NOT being in the future which I can’t predict. Don’t paint devil’s on the wall before they get here! I accept that I have to go through some procedures, and there will be an outcome. I will deal with that then. In the meantime I’ve kind of put the issue in the freezer! Thanks for your support 😘

      • I like that you’ve put the issue in the freezer, best place for it. Maybe it’ll end up it’s past its BBD and you have to fling it. No good taking something like this and making it into something else. When I understood I had PHN for the rest of my life, the most likely scenario – really understood right down into the bones – it turned out to be quite a big relief because I didn’t have to think about how bad it was going to be anymore. So I think you’re doing it right, there’s a directionality about it, just go along carefully and see how things transform as you step through the procedures and arrive at what the outcome is…

      • Yes, I shall carry on as normal – since I do feel completely normal. The imagination has been locked up and the Mindfulness blog is read every day! 🙆

  8. Yes, fighting the pain makes it worse. Letting go and easing into it, becoming one with it, eases the pain. I can’t always do it, if, for example, other problems are occurring at the same time. But that is my limitation. It is a bit like not fighting the ocean when you are being tossed by waves. I do hope the chelation therapy works. Have not heard of the laser part of the treatment but hope it all helps you!

    • Thanks for pointing this out, it’s not a simple matter, becoming one with it. My feeling is that it becomes a way of life, no quick-fix here. ‘Not fighting the ocean when you’re being tossed by the waves’… yep, the frustration and failure is a characteristic of this sort of endeavor. There is a place for clear and long-lasting inspiration, through sila, samadi, pannya: living with integrity, clear focus, intelligent awareness

    • Thanks Tom, I’m inclined to think pain distress suffering – all are the same – will dissipate when the ignorance (ignoring) is replaced by knowledge (knowing). Usually there’s a lethargy that goes with it and no enthusiasm to try to improve the situation. This special energy is maybe what I got from the therapy.

    • Thanks David, the idea came from blogging friend Pennycho long time ago, that it’s something be travelled through rather carried with you. So I’m grateful to Penny for something that took me about three years to see…

  9. Hi Tiramit,

    Enjoyed your description of embracing the pain to avoid ramifying it all into a cloud of suffering and anxiety– and the way you described it as flickering between pain and no pain in one of your comment replies. I think this is quite similar to how it works emotionally as well, at least that is my experience. When emotions are difficult, and I accept and enter into them, they flicker at times and the cracks in the armor of darkness make it clear that the difficulties are transitory.

    I also think light can be a pretty potent medicine…


    • Thanks again for your thoughts on this Michael. It’s obviously a bit difficult to see how it works when one is coping with pain – for me it’s when something new arrives that exacerbates the pain and fragile pain-coping mechanism and throws the balance completely, so there is then the confusion of the condition of suffering, dukkha, as the Buddha described it. But we recover from these experiences, and look back on how it happened, hard to see because the mind obscures it, but there’s a ‘known’ quality about these states and it’s this that tips the balance back into recovery. As you say, there’s a similarity in how the mind deals with or reacts to sensory input or cognitive responses, whether it’s pain, joy, emotionality, anything. These are the limitations of the mind/body organism. We find a way out, or find our way through to final liberation by knowing that this is the case.

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