Most of our thoughts, actions and behaviors are geared towards experiencing pleasure and avoiding experiencing pain. My spiritual seeking began in response to a life that wasn’t working out the way I’d dreamed and hoped it would. I frequently experienced what I thought of as pain, mostly in the form of mental/emotional suffering that seemed to sometimes translate into physical illness and discomfort. I sought to get rid of the suffering by healing the pain through accepting it or letting it go and by working on myself to find relief and release from the mental/emotional mess I often found myself in.
Sometimes it seemed as if the techniques and practices I tried worked. Quite often I’d feel intense depression, anxiety or panic and set about applying some technique to find relief. I tried analysing why I was feeling a certain way and look for a remedy. For example, if I was feeling lonely I tried to find ways of socialising and mixing with others. If I was feeling frustrated at having no money to pay for the things I wanted, I’d try to find ways to earn more money or get money from somewhere.
And of course, on one level some of those solutions worked… for a time. They never worked in the way I’d always hoped however, which was to end the suffering and the pain completely, once and for all. So much of my spiritual seeking was about rejecting all pain forever. I always wanted to feel good and never wanted to feel bad. The seeker I had become was tyrannical; dictatorial even in its insistence on only the pure, good feelings and experiences. Deep down I knew that the good feelings were only known as good in relation to the bad, unwanted feelings and experiences but my preference for the light feelings of joy, happiness, comfort and contentment was so hardwired this knowing seemed to have no lasting effect.
These days, when pain or discomfort or suffering arises I look at it and try to find the one that it all happens to. All I ever find are sensations, thoughts and experiences. I also find that the pain, discomfort and suffering are soon replaced by feelings of happiness, joy or comfort or some feeling in between. No one feeling or experience lasts forever. As forms or objects they come and go, they are in constant flux just as the woodland near where I live is an ever changing, fully alive ecosystem of life, where decay is inseparable from the richness of new, vibrant growth.
When I look in this way, which is a kind of childlike looking with no objective in mind other than to simply look, I find that pain and suffering are just as much a mystery as a sunset or a snowflake or a craggy rotting tree trunk, teeming with bustling insects. I could not look at sunsets and snowflakes only and forever. Life would be hideously out of balance if night never came.
And so, freedom is seen to be already happening in the flow of dualities, in the ever changing swirl of good feelings and bad feelings… so much so that good and bad lose their descriptive power and all that is left is sensation, thought, emotion and experience. All that is left is what was already always there: the mystery of living.