From the work in progress Life: A Book About Learning to Live
By Jim Rosemergy
Pain is a small part of my larger world.
Pain narrows my vision and makes me selfish, for pain demands that I think only about myself. When I am in pain physically or emotionally, I often forget that I live in an expansive world. My world shrinks; it becomes my pain, and it is all I think about. I am unable to think about others or what might be. My life becomes the pain I feel, and so I feel little else.
Even people who are reported to have chronic pain can experience times without pain. Have you ever been in pain and attended a concert or suddenly come across a friend you have not seen in years? You were focused on the performers or learning of your friend’s life, and during that time, there was no pain. Did it disappear or was it forgotten? Or did your world expand until the pain was a small part of a grand and ever expanding world? It was present, but your attention was directed to someone or something other than yourself.
The truth is there are states of consciousness in which there is no pain. Many years ago I endured a massive sinus infection that made it nearly impossible to sleep more than a few hours at a time. I was up many hours during the night. I ran on a treadmill to loosen my sinuses. Relief would last for a brief time, and then the pressure and discomfort would return. One agonizing night I made a decision. Since I was up in the middle of the night, I might as well write a book. It was during this time I wrote The Prayer That God Prays. In a few months, the book was written.
As I wrote, I noticed that I lost myself in the work. My sinuses were clear; there was relief. The focus on writing and the experience of the fresh ideas that were filling my mind helped me enter a state of mind and heart where there was no pain or difficulty breathing. My world was not pain; it was much larger; it was a flow of ideas and words pouring through of my fingertips.
Pain is obviously part of the human experience. The fact that we have pain receptors and nerve endings supports the idea that pain is part of the being human. Pain is an alarm that tells us something is out of balance, that there is a need to take some action. We are to remove our hand from the hot stove or to stop living in the past.
Apparently the soul has pain receptors that manifest themselves as feelings of guilt, resentment, shame and sadness, etc. Sometimes this kind of pain calls for physical action, but it is more likely that we are to arrest our thoughts and move them in a more constructive direction. Emotional pain and negative thoughts and attitudes take turns leading the way to limitation and more pain.
This kind of pain says, “Stop it. Do something different. This is not working.” This pain is a teacher, a pain that demands not only action, but also another way of life. Isn’t it amazing how quickly we respond to a hand on a hot stove, yet how willing we are to endure emotional pain and limitation because we think we are right?
Pain is also a doorway to deep peace. I once read a debrief of a prisoner of war who was being tortured. He reported that suddenly, a look of ecstasy filled his face and because the torturer had seen this phenomena before, he stopped his attempt to induce pain and fear. Upon reading this account, I wondered what had happened.
I don’t really know the answer, but I speculate that the pain forced the man’s attention into the moment, and the moment is a gateway to the kingdom of God where there is no pain. People being tortured naturally want to be in another place. Their thoughts turn to the peace of a past experience or to a joyous future, but in journeying to the past or future, the present moment, the gateway to the kingdom of God, is unrealized.
It is good to know that when I am experiencing pain that the kingdom of God is near and that this kingdom is so filled with God that it contains no pain. Until the day when I continuously live in this state of mind and heart, I remember that pain can be a doorway to the kingdom of God, that pain can indicate it is time for a change, and that pain need not dominate my world. If it is present, it can remain only if it is a small part of my much larger world.