We’re taught to see pain and pleasure as being opposites, mutually exclusive — one to be pursued and the other to be avoided. But is that really how it all works?
We cry when we’re sad, and we cry when we’re happy. We cry when we’re in pain but also when we experience the greatest joys. Could it be that all of this comes from the same place?
Without joy there couldn’t be sorrow. Without sorrow there couldn’t be joy. These two polar opposites are inextricably connected — and seem to exist in a strange state of symbiosis.
The more I allow myself to feel joy, the more vulnerable I am to pain in the following days. The more I accept and allow the pain to flow, the more bliss I see when I finally step out of the darkness. This dance all seems like a strange and wonderful kind of ecstasy.
There are monks who retreat into temples, who isolate themselves from the world of sensuality. They do this because they know very well that ups come with downs, that emotions come with chaos, and that beauty comes with horror. We live in a world of opposites, of contradictions and paradoxes — and really, why should this be a problem?
No, There is No Problem
If we’re to allow bliss in our lives, then everything related to bliss must be allowed also. Suffering, in the spiritual sense, has little to do with pain. Suffering is entirely a psycho-spiritual process, whereas one puts oneself in a state of torment from refusing to allow pain and sorrow to flow naturally.
Should we stop the flow of emotions, be these emotions labeled as positive or negative, we create an overflow which will sooner or later become uncontrollable — a great dam which is destined to collapse.
Therein lies a great source of mental ailment. Depression, anxiety, avoidant or borderline personality disorder — all symptom of a soul repressed from being that which it naturally longs to be. Emotional repression is the great disease of civilization, something the Buddha perceived and sought to find a cure from, and succeeded.
This cure is generally misunderstood as the quelling of desires, of emotions, and of attachments or dependency to this world. But no, the way out of suffering — something some call Nirvana — doesn’t require one to step out of this world, of this body, or of this existence. The way into blissful freedom is that which transcends the desires and attachments — a process which starts with simple observation, acceptance, and allowance of these desires and attachments.
We are human beings, and as such we cannot do without these bodies, these emotions, and these needs. There are two ways to suffer in this existence: that of indulging ourselves completely in the desires, and that of resisting and denying those desires. The way out of suffering is that of the third: the acceptance of those desires for that they are, consciously and with awareness.
The Truth is What it Is
If we suffer, it is because we hide from the truth — this truth of who are, what we truly long for, and what is actually possible within this existence. Should we ignore who we are, our deepest feelings and longings, and try to pretend they are not as they are — then we deny our souls the existence they so deserve.
This is what happens when we choose to live according to the prescriptions of society or family. We come to live a certain way because that’s what’s expected of us — but a life based on expectations only reduces itself to the lowest common denominator.
We go to school and endeavour to be good students, we get a career and take pride in being faithful employees, we create a family and buy a house and a couple of cars and feel good about being a model member of society. When, however, do we stop to ask ourselves whether this is truly what our souls call for?
Much of our education, through school as well as popular culture and commercial advertisement, is focused on telling us how we ought to live and what choices we ought to make. But we don’t have to listen to that. We can choose for ourselves. The right time for this is now.
Now is always the right time for choosing where we want to go with ourselves.
The Time is Now
Your best friend, your most faithful life companion, the only one who will always stand by your side, is you. How will you choose to treat yourself today? Will you choose to listen — and I mean really listen and aspire not to criticise or belittle the voices within?
Those voices within might be saying all sorts of crazy things — they might dream of flying high in the sky or spreading magic through the universe. Those are not mere childish fantasies — they are the longings of your soul, and they deserve their voice.
Dreams can become reality, sometimes in the most unexpected of ways. The first step is to listen.