When you’re hurting, your attention is hijacked. Whether your suffering is insignificant, a mere annoyance, or you’re going through deep physical illness, there’s a pull. A pull that shifts your attention from where it usually was.

All spiritual people seem to be immune to suffering, though. From the early shamans, who could spend hours or days hurting in trance, up to Christian saints, enduring unfathomable tortures with unshakeable faith, they’ve all been able to face suffering in a different way. It almost seemed like suffering didn’t have any effect on them.

Make no mistake, those saints eventually left their human shape and, in common terms, they died. Which means their body did undergo suffering. What was different, though, was their attention. Their focus wasn’t on the suffering, was on something else.

You see, when we suffer, we cling to the expectation that suffering must end, and in this process we keep our focus on suffering. We pair with the pain, we walk together. Should we not expect pain to end, we wouldn’t do that. We could’ve shift our focus in any other part.

Ultimately, pain is just a sensation, like pleasure. It’s just its “sign”, as in plus (for pleasure), or minus (for suffering) that changes. Our attachment to these sensation is what drives our focus. For pleasure, we expect NOT to end, while for pain we DO expect it to end. Without these expectations, we wouldn’t give a shit about whatever we experience. We could just control our mind in the direction we want. Which may be to prolong pleasure and to stop the pain, but without expectations.

This disjunction, this ability to control your focus under extreme circumstances, including pain and hurting, is one of the most interesting things we can learn and practice. This skill helps you overcome your temporary condition. By controlling your mind, you’re detaching from its temporary support, the body, and pave the way for an independent, untainted existence.

It’s not in any way easy. It might not even be useful, in all circumstances. But it’s important.

Photo by Kai Bossom on Unsplash

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