Pain and pleasure, pleasure and pain — side effects of living

Last month I woke one day with an aching leg and posted on whether pain is necessary for growth. A fellow yogi and blogger, Ben Ralston, commented that sometimes these issues can be due to birth trauma and/or inherited (“the family pattern”).

I was born prematurely, 7 weeks early and weighing 4.1 pounds, and my father walked with a limp due to having been born with a club foot that was straightened, but the treatment shortened his leg. Perhaps I picked up that energy pattern.

I want to explore these possibilities for healing.

Patrice, my acupuncturist, explained that my leg pain that day, not long after chiropractic work, signified a “crisis day” of my body’s moving toward being more aligned. Crisis day is when you think something is wrong, but you’re actually moving through a dysfunctional pattern to a new place that is more right than before.

She later did myofascial release work on my leg, and it feels great now.

Patrice has promised me a rebirthing session next time we work together. I will report on my rebirthing experience here.

Pain is a catalyst. Sometimes we let things go until the pain becomes great enough to change (laziness). And sometimes we let things go because we don’t know how to change course (ignorance). It seems that we may encounter pain (awareness), and only in hindsight understand that we were on a path that led to it (insight).

We may have to step in that hole several times (pattern) before understanding where we first went off course (great mindfulness), thus being able to avoid it the next time (learning) and from then on (mastery).

Life often does include “getting hit in the head with a 2×4,” as an old mentor used to say. When that unexpected, unwanted event happens, you can’t help but change direction. It changes your direction for you. Sometimes life is like that (more often when you’re young, have you noticed?).

The sweet trick is changing direction before the 2×4 looms large. And that’s being motivated to move toward pleasure.

Usually when we first experience a new pleasure, we are open to our experience, feel the pleasure, and then want more of that. We mark and savor pleasurable experiences in our memories. We hope and maybe plan to encounter it again (expectation).

Just remember. Smelling roses, newly mown grass in the spring, the approach of a storm, the scent of someone you love.

Tasting water when thirsty, the satisfaction of sweetness, a surprising new combination of tastes like watermelon and lime.

Feeling a caress, releasing muscle tension, the intensity of orgasm, air currents against your skin.

Hearing a particular tune, a whisper, a dog barking in the distance, crickets.

Seeing a sunrise, a double rainbow, catching someone’s eye, a funny sign.

Add your pleasurable memories here.

There are other pleasurable experiences in unnamed senses as well.

Experiences like these are catalysts for appreciation of this life, for gratitude. Each experience of pleasure may signify truly being here now, being in the right place at the right time, living your right life.

And they happen in the moment.

It’s when pleasure becomes the point, when we crave it, when we build our lives around it, that things get complicated. 

It’s hard to live without expecting to live another day. Expectation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When is it “appropriate”? When is it useful?

It may be that letting go of expectation only really happens when we are present in the moment, experiencing life as it is.

That’s what meditation is. A practice to train yourself to experience life as it is.

What a fine line, to enjoy pleasure, and not hang onto it, and not crave it, but just let it arise when it arises, savor it deeply, and let it go. Rasa, in Sanskrit

One more thing. Pleasure and pain aren’t opposites, they are on a continuum of sensation and meaning. They are side effects of having a nervous system.

And a tip: If you don’t label pain, but just experience an uncomfortable sensation and breathe through it, you have opened to your experience.

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