Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Reality of Bodily Suffering

Spinning this morning, there was music, heard, and instructions, heard also, and heat, sensed, from body working hard, and aversion to the effort . . . Mixed in and not belonging to the class, some tightness inherited from a prior interaction. Mind has moved on, or at least thinks so. But the body can't let go so easily. 

There is much research done on neuroplasticity, the ability of the human brain to change as a result of one's experience. While the mind-body connection is undeniable, and the mind can help loosen some of the tensions in the body, one is still left dealing with some reluctant spots. 

The Buddha tells us to calm the bodily formations by turning our attention to the ins and outs of the breath, meanwhile relaxing the tensions. The question is how much of the bodily formations can be calmed, and how quickly? The more recent the formation, and the more superficial, of course, the easier it can be undone. Also, the more one practices mindfulness, the lesser the chance of new formations forming. Still, one is left with the old stuff, habitual patterns of reactivity in the body, and deeply held tensions from emotions tied to unconscious or repressed memories. Through practice, one can learn to sense the knots, and get in touch with the suffering attached. Wishing to rid oneself of the pain, or actively trying to explain it away as is done in some forms of therapy may do us more harm than good.

Sitting with a friend, she tells me she has this thing in her body. She points to her chest. She shows me a collage she did about herself. Many disconnected images, neatly cut out from magazines. She analyzes her work. "This represents me perfectly". I am left feeling cold.  She is hoping for the day when will she will no longer have "this". "I will be free then."  She dreams of being an artist. 

We need to hear Ayya Khema:
Please be aware of the fact that this body does not have suffering, but that it is suffering. Only then can we begin to fathom the reality of human suffering. It is not that we have some discomfort sometimes, but that this body consists of suffering. It can't sit or lie still without becoming uncomfortable. Know the impermanence. Know the unsatisfactoriness, which is inherent in the human body. Know the fact that the feeling has arisen without your invitation. So why call it "mine"? ~ from Being Nobody, Going Nowhere ~
With this realization, comes a reconciliation with oneself, wounds and all, and the wholehearted desire to not add more suffering to what is already there.  More fuel for mindfulness practice . . . and compassion for others. 

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