Tag Archives: fear

Pain Is The Teacher

Summer is when everything should go right with the world. I think I first developed this attitude the summer after my 2nd grade. It has stayed with me ever since. So this summer’s troubles — pains in my back and shoulder, the ache in my ankle, even the grievances in my heart — just seem very inappropriate for this time of year. But there they are and they require a response.

Ezra Bayda, author of Being Zen says, “on experiencing pain, we almost always immediately resist. On top of the physical discomfort we quickly add a layer of negative judgments: “Why is this happening to me?” “I can’t bear this,” and so on.” My knee-jerk, all-too-human response just doesn’t help.

Bayda then asks, “How do we live the practice life when we’re in pain? To apply such phrases as “Be one with the pain” or “There is no self” (and therefore no one to suffer) is neither comforting nor helpful. We must first understand that both our pain and our suffering are truly our path, our teacher. While this understanding doesn’t necessarily entail liking our pain or our suffering, it does liberate us from regarding them as enemies we have to conquer.

Bayda has more insights on this topic which you can find in “When It Happens to Us” (Tricycle, Winter 2002).

 

No Pain, No Gain

For the record, I haven’t found any form of meditation that espouses “No Pain, No Gain” as a tenet. Sitting still and silent may feel awkward. Sitting may even elicit some of the uncomfortable emotions and thoughts we commonly associate with pain, as in “I can’t take this anymore,” but the point of meditation is neither to produce pain, nor to use pain as a yardstick. On the other hand, pain is an unavoidable fact of life (I’m sure my birth caused my mother plenty of it), and aches and pains can serve a useful purpose (don’t put wait on that sprained ankle yet). So how should one relate to pain?

Long-time meditation teacher Ezra Bayda writes(“More than This Body,” Trike Daily, 26 July 2017)

Pain, by definition, kind of sucks. …

We usually try to simply get rid of it. Being cured of pain is the outcome our culture teaches us to expect — we carry a sense of entitlement that life should be free from pain. But one of the worst parts of the pain syndrome—whether the discomfort is short-term, as in meditation, or long-term, with chronic pain — is that our physical pain and our urge to nullify it feed off one another in a most unfortunate loop, and our life comes to revolve around our discomfort. …

It is essential to understand that both our pain and the suffering that arises from it are truly our path, our teacher, in that we can learn from them and experience our life more deeply as a result. …

When pain arises, instead of immediately thinking, “How can I get rid of this?” we can say “Hello” to it, and ask, “What can I learn from this?” It’s not always easy to do this, but when possible, it turns the whole experience upside down.”

Bayda’s article goes on with exploration of the different dimensions of pain, our responses to it, and a menu of tools for experiencing life-with-pain free of the mental hangups that normally present themselves.

The Energy of Emotions

The election polls closed less than 24 hours ago, and as elections often do, they unleashed a tsunami of emotions: fear, anger, vindication, triumph. I wish I could have escaped, but I was swept away just like everyone else. The current still feels pretty strong, but I’ve also done myself a favor by taking some time to sit still and ask myself, “what is all this really?”

Continue reading

Facing Academic Fears

Students may believe that they have a personal monopoly when it comes to fear of academic failure, but there is plenty of fear to be found in almost any classroom. Not only is fear of failure widespread among students, it is also found in faculty.

A team of Norwegian researchers has just published an exploratory study that asks whether Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) can help students deal better with their fear of academic failure: Hjeltnes, A. et al., “Facing the fear of failure: An explorative qualitative study of client experiences in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program for university students with academic evaluation anxiety”, International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, DOI 10.3402/qhw.v10.27990.