Monday, May 11, 2009

Tension in the Body - Pain vs. Suffering

'To be in a Body is to be in tension' Lydia

Last week I went to a few of Lydia's yoga classes and her words above have sparked reflection, research, contemplation and now...this blog. Lydia, thanks for being such a wonderful inspiration, teacher and friend!!

So, let's contemplate this idea...

As long as we are living and breathing in our bodies we will experience tension, discomfort and pain. At the same time, as long as we are alive we will experience freedom, space and joy through our bodies.

And, despite what you may think, the practice of yoga is not going to make the reality of tension/pain in your body go away - even when you can put both legs behind your head and move into the most advanced backbending asanas - you will always feel tension/pain in your body.

'To be in a Body is to be in tension.'

So, then, why practice yoga??

In the Buddhist philosophy there is a teaching on the psychology of pain called 'The Two Darts.' In this teaching, the Buddha articulates the difference between the ideas of pain and suffering.

The first way that you know there is sensation in the body, is that you can actually feel that there are sensations arising in the body. You feel your toes wiggle, you feel lonliness when a relationship ends, you feel tension when you stretch your shoulders. These physical sensations you feel describe being hit by the first dart.

It is good to recognize that these feelings exist all of the time if we are living in the present. Both the good feelings and the difficult ones - it is a part of being alive.

Interestingly, it is common for people to believe that the yoga practice will take them out of feeling pain in their body (this could refer to the physical or emotional body). When in reality, the yoga practice, expands our awareness and deepens our physical capacity to feel in our bodies. At the same time as our ability to feel expands, we become more and more aware of acute tension and pain and joy that exists within our life.

Yoga expands our spectrum of feeling.

The second dart is what the mind does with the feeling sensations of the first dart. This is where the buddha makes a distinction between the experience of pain and the experience of suffering. The second dart is of your own creation.
As such, we can begin to see that suffering is not built in to pain, suffering is one way to react to the sensation of pain inside of the body. Furthermore, within a culture that has so many aversion patterns to living in the present, many people live day to day without any real sense of what is going on within their living, feeling, breathing bodies yet they are suffering. They are living through the second dart which is the minds construction of reality....and if we are disconnected from feeling then we are living out of reality, out of our truth of being alive.

At this point, we can really begin to see the way that these ancient practices (Meditation, asana, pranayama) are designed to effect our mind-body connection. Yoga is beginning to happen when we can see shifts in the way our minds react to the sensation of feeling within the body. Most often here in the west, this begins with the exploration of the physical body - but it transcends to observing the way our minds react to emotional feeling. In this process of observation we can begin to observe the minds tendencies towards pain aversion - rather then being present with the pain without suffering.

If we accept that the feeling of pain is an inevitable part of being alive - then we can begin to transcend patterns of pain aversion towards a greater understanding of our own individual patterns of suffering as a result of pain. And maybe, somewhere down that road is the gateway to freedom, samadhi, enlightenment - whatever you want to call it??

This is an ongoing dialogue - thoughts are appreciated always!! And, thanks for reading.

be in your body - feel whatever is true, for you!!


p.p.s. I have posted a link from a CBC program on the commercialization of yoga. Interesting dialogue and good food for thought, especially as we begin to grow together in this Squamish yoga community. The program is 90 minutes but the yoga sections starts about 30 minutes in...
CBC Radio - Yoga Podcast
p.s. Our garden has begun to grow - we have little kale leaves!!


Gwendolyn said...

Great post! I've been thinking about this a lot lately. As I've gotten deeper into the meditation and yoga, I've been really struggling with the sense of mind-body connection - I'm surprised by how much I feel like a passenger in a very very complicated machine, which really ought to have replaceable parts for when I get injured! ;) There's no integration at all, in my head. Sometimes I literally feel like the cartoon character in a robot shaped like a person, pulling levers in the head and peering out the windows in the eyes!

So it would make a lot of sense if my lack of connection is due to my aversion to pain and the fear of pain, and not wanting to accept the reality that my body is me, since it feels like it would bring the pain and fear closer.

Hm. Now *I* feel a blog post coming!

Thanks, as always, for the inspiration!


Sarah and Lydia said...

Great post Sarah! I have been contemplating the same for some time now... and also how if I change my perception to deep and difficult sensation I can come to a still point of observation with it. It is always an honour to practice and share with you. And learn from you!
I'm still figuring out where I heard these words too...

tschnugg said...

Hi Sarah and Lydia ...
This post reminds me of something that I believe I heard from you ... about being in 'comfortable discomfort.' Love that. Not only has that helped me in my yoga practice, but also in climbing - being able to hang comfortably and confidently when in the midst of pushing my limits - which, to me, feels 'discomforting'. The 'pain/discomfort' becomes a friend in this sense ... one with whom my body, mind, and spirit know how to comfortably communicate. Thanks for the learning.

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