Suffering or Pain?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

In this Integral Naked talk Wilber makes a distinction between pain and suffering that he once heard from a teacher somewhere along his path. It occurs at the 10th minute.

Namely, he remarks that Buddhism doesn't get rid of pain, Buddhism gets rid of suffering. This is because suffering = pain + resistance to pain. Therefore, Buddhism attempts to rid a person of the resistance, and thus the suffering. So by not contracting away from the pain we are released from suffering.

This was the most poignant part of this talk with Deepak Chopra for me. It resonates particularly well because at one point I was taught a fundamental lesson about emotion that I carry with me daily. In my version it was nervousness. I had always thought that nervousness was a bad thing, keeping me from performing and embracing the world. As a child I was hyper-emotional in most circumstances, resulting in many somewhat embarrassing bouts of nervousness. A teacher of mine in college reversed my thinking on all this. He told me that the problem was not nervousness, nervousness is a good thing. It motivates and helps us perform to our fullest. The problem comes when nervousness becomes reflexive and you get nervous about being nervous. Being an extremely over-cognitive person, this type of reflexivity is something that plagues me. In those moments I benefit greatly from reminding myself that the problem is not the emotion, I should let that be; the problem is when I get myself worked up about the emotion, when I contract from it or resist it. So, when I am able to not get nervous about nervousness, anxious about anxiety, or resist pain, I tend to be a relatively balanced and sane human being.

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