Suffering can, sometimes, be optional.
We all experience pain. It’s part of having a nervous system. It’s a universal experience for humans. (And other mammals, and possibly other species.)
What does pain really do?
It gets our attention.
Sometimes it stops us in our tracks, like moving our hand quickly away from the hot pan or the stillness that often follows a fall as we take in what just happened.
Sometimes our response might be slower, like deciding to make a doctor’s appointment to get it checked out.
We often change course because of pain. Sometimes noticing pain may save our lives.
So what if pain is not something to push away?
What if pain simply carries a message, and the message is “pay attention”?
What if you really pay attention to your pain?
What if you notice it with your full attention?
Notice where it is. What shape is feeling pain? How deep is it? What qualities does it have: dull, sharp, radiating, throbbing, solid, shifting, strange, familiar?
Paying attention changes our relationship with pain. Instead of being “other,” it’s part of our self-experience.
I like this article by a Buddhist teacher, Belonging in the Body.
In my upcoming Self-Help for Jaw Pain online course, we will explore our own upper bodies and treat ourselves with our own hands.