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Mindful : April 2015
Let me explain. Insight meditation teacher Shinzen Young came up with the following equa- tion: “Suffering = Pain x Resistance.” We can safely say that pain is a constant in life, whether it is physi- cal or emotiona l pain. And during moments when it’s not affecting you, for sure somebody you care about is in pain. When you’re in pain a nd you really hate it, what happens to your suffering? It goes up, doesn’t it? And yet, at another time when you have the same or a similar pain but you don’t resist it or you don’t worry about it so much, what happens to suffering? Doesn’t it go down? Of course is does. That ’s common sense. At this point I love to be a little provocative to really make the point: According to this equation, if there is zero resista nce, what happens to suffering?... Right?? Suffering would turn out to be zero as well! Do you believe that? Can you give me an example where you had pain but zero suffering? When you were okay with it, even though it did hurt? When I ask this question in a class people are often stunned at first but then they do come up with great examples: “ When I had my baby, it hurt like hell, but I didn’t care, I was so excited to be a mom soon.” “When I lift weights that often really hurts, but it’s okay. That’s how I grow stronger.” “I recently got a new tattoo on the inside of my arm. Super painful, but zero suffering, that ’s what it takes.” And even people with chronic pain have told me, “I can be in severe pain, but if my mind is not wor- ried and I don’t fight it, I can feel deeply okay in that moment.” It’s normal to resist pain or to worry about what’s wrong. It’s norma l to suffer when we’re in pain. But it feels so normal that we forget pain a nd suffering are NOT the same. We could say pain and suffering are like twins—fraternal twins, not identical ones. Armed with this equation, we can move into the exploration of pain in a very different manner. The box we call PAIN What we call pain is actually a conglomerate of three components: the actual physical sensations, the emotions we have about the pain, and the meaning the pain has for us and our life, which we call “the story.” They are lumped together in our experience as if they only coexisted together in a box labeled PAIN. Let’s imagine we give the sensations, the emo- tions, and the story each the value of 10. This box and its confinement would be like multiplying the power of its content: 10 x 10 x 10 = 1,000. Of course → mindful practices insight April 2015 mindful 73