Opening up to the pain of the world

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After attending a mindfulness meditation class recently, which included a talk by an insight meditation teacher on feeling the pain of the world, it left me reflecting on this aspect of our humanity. The pain of the world includes all forms of individual and collective pain – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, interpersonal, organisational, communal, societal, cultural, environmental and global. There is also the pain of loss, abandonment, neglect, uncertainty, doubt, helplessness, hopelessness, unfulfilled dreams, regret, separation, longing, crisis, injury, illness and ageing. The list can go on. Most of us find it challenging to open up to and connect with and feel our own pain.To carry or try to feel more than our own share of pain can be daunting and overwhelming.

When pain is perceived and experienced through the perspective of separation, that is, I am separate from everyone else, ones pain is personal and more than enough to bare. From this perspective pain is inwardly-focused, entangled and intensified by notions of my and mine. No-one out there can understand what I’m going through. My pain is terrible, and worse than yours. Notice the separation – my pain, your pain. Adding to the personal pain mix is what a historical wisdom teacher referred to as first and second arrows of pain or suffering. The first arrow is the situation or condition giving rise to the pain. The second arrow is the person’s reaction to the pain, which typically intensifies their initial pain experience, creating further pain for them.

When pain is perceived and experienced through the perspective of connection or interconnectedness, that is, I am connected to everyone / everything else and the greater whole, ones pain is impersonal, and common to all humanity and living beings. From this perspective pain is still painful. Yet we begin to see that our and everybody’s pain impacts us in some form. What happens to me happens to everybody else, and vice versa. When one person is experiencing pain, all living beings and Life are simultaneously impacted by, and are holding, this pain. This is how the principle of interconnectedness works. Remember, our individual pain is part of our common humanity, and our world’s pain is the individual’s pain too. We can’t escape this. If we try to all we are doing is denying and avoiding this reality.

Our willingness to make this shift in perspective from separation to interconnectedness enables us to open ourselves up to and feel the pain of all living beings, including animals, birds, insects, creatures of the sea and the earth. We don’t really have to do much to experience this. Simply being willing to intentionally and consciously turn toward, acknowledge and feel all forms of pain in the world is how we can begin and continue to do this. If you are experiencing enough pain already, then focus on taking care of yourself first, and allow others to indirectly hold your pain too. Denying, avoiding or distracting ourselves from the world’s pain, through numbing ourselves, pushing pain away, disconnecting from pain or giving too much attention to our own pain, does not miraculously make the world’s pain disappear. Once we can move toward and embrace our collective and individual pain, then we can make our unique and interconnected contribution to sharing and carrying the pain of the world.

After all aren’t we all part of the same planet trying to make a difference to alleviating pain and suffering?

Would you like to make a positive contribution to our individual and collective healing, and to our continuing growth and evolution by being willing to intentionally and consciously turn toward, acknowledge and feel the pain of the world?

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