Exchange on suffering is optional?

The post challenging the saying “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional” gave rise to a lively exchange of comments.  The central thread of the discussion concerned the questions of the reality of pain and suffering outside the mind, and the tendency of those who think that suffering is only mental, i.e., optional, to blame the sufferer.

Comment by Lotophage

Suffering and loss.
Can be separated.
For a time.
When the memory, of a loved one’s life, resurfaces,
in the context and company of those who what I no longer enjoy,
I lose the composure and distance that time have created.
They are gone.
Dead.
Unavailable.
And it breaks my fucking heart.
But I make a proud and sensitive stance, a pretence
of being moved by their family. Their closeness.
Ingratiating myself and endearing the moment.
It’s not the same.
Putting it out of mind by engaging in the lives of others.
Suffering is assuaged by replacing what was lost with a charade.
It works. It’s how I learn and grow through  vicarious life experience.
Suffering, like presence, is optional.

Comment by Terry

The physical sensation of pain when I have a toothache is real to me. I know it can be relieved by having the tooth removed. How I deal with it is another matter altogether – go to the dentist, take pain-killers, stoically endure it, rely on meditation – I make choices. My pain is optional too.

Comment by Mark

IMO, suffering to a large degree is, or can be, optional regarding how one mentally approaches it. OTOH, there are many life situations where the condition is so vast, so engulfing, so over-whelming that for other people to discredit the suffering it engenders is hubris.

Comment by Terry

I agree Mark.  Suffering does cast a broader net – mental pain can endure much longer than acute or chronic physical pain.

At this point I posted further thoughts on opting in and opting out of pain and suffering.

Comment by Mark

FWIW, I feel the point must be made that pain and suffering are different issues and not to be treated as one and the same.  Suffering may be triggered by physical pain (a sensation) but suffering (a mental attribute) casts a much broader net.

Comment by Ken

Good point

Comment by Lotophage

Pain is felt in the mind.
Not the liver or heart or fingertips.
All senses erupt in the mind, from transmissions afar.
Distinctions are invented in the mind. Scales of pain.
Depth of perceived suffering, anguish and joy.
Our mental palette prefers warm broth,
Cold-served chicken soup does not soothe a troubled mind.
Comfort, sweetness, delicate flavors and caresses,
Mind approves and objects to all else.
Suffering not much
Which does not please
It’s discerning habit.

Comment by Mark

I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but one more point on Terry’s post – pain itself may, or may not, be avoidable/optional.  It may be so in the case of his tooth pain; but just for an example, I have a condition that prohibits the use of any really effective pain control (narcotics) due to their side effects –  s0 to say that pain itself is optional is also, at the best, only relative to the circumstances of both the condition and the person.

Comment by Ken

Mark, I agree and that’s why I don’t like the use of the word “optional” with respect to either pain or suffering.

Comment by Lotophage

Mind controls body.
Pain, suffering, heartbeat, breath and bowels.
Simple commands from a processor within each mind.
To heal, to grimace, to respond or to be still.
Psychosomatic medicine works best.

Comment by Mark

Mind controls body
William, true in only certain applications – in the neurological world of nerves and synapses, mind only marginally controls body; at best, possibly only the mental reaction upon observation of the processes.  Mind may be able to surmount or ignore but relatively seldom actually controls.

Comment by Ken

Some of William’s comments sound as if they come from one of the Mind Only schools of Buddhism.    But some of his other comments reject all such scholasticism.  In any case, I am not aware of any Buddhist suttas or sutras that teach that fooling oneself is the best way to become free of grief, pain or suffering.

Comment by Terry

Mark, I wasn’t suggesting that all causes of physical pain were equal and could be coped with in the same way.  There’s a huge difference between an acute toothache and cancer-related pain for example.  My point was that how we approach our pain plays a part in how we deal with it.

Comment by Florence

Kenneth, i have read quite a few of your posts on your blog. i found this today – a conversation between Laura Huxley and Alan Watts, talking like old friends about her book on the last years of her husband Aldous H., and about his dying days (i have not read the book )… and she says that Aldous Huxley himself had helped his first wife Maria when she was dying, and she (Laura) tried to help him in the same way.
This is an ‘audio only’ video... very nice. Makes me interested to read her book.
i thought it might be of interest to you..

Comment by Lotophage

When the phone rings, I have a choice or two or three: answer it. Pick up and click off. Engage the caller at length. Say “Hi and Bye” in one brief moment.
Sensory signals, for myself, are identical. Off or on. Mind is the tool not the master.
When at 17 years of age I crushed C3,4,5 in a diving accident, I took three days to heal. The Hospital staff threw me out because I would not wear the neck-bracing structure in bed. No difficulties with it now or then.
I had first been healed and made aware of the simplicity of self-healing when at age five my arm was crushed and potentially necrotic. A dreamed healer aided and directed my full recovery. Doctors grafted and stitched but warned that the arm might pass clots or infection to heart and organs if not removed.
My parents deposited me at a clinic, in Alaska, and returned weeks later to claim me, healed.
Some of my construction crew members rely on the same healing facility by engaging with me in a few moments of quiet, hands-on mind/faith controlled healing and relief of pain; with instantaneous results.
A very dear friend of mine, Dr David Rouleau in Stuttgart, Kansas, gave us the home we live in, and retired from conventional medicine after a year and a half casual internship with me. We studied with dreams, readings, intuition and feeling. On the Saturday morning when he arrived at my home, after our year and a half association, and in the last month of his practice after 25 years, he said: “I get it. I wanted you to be the first to know, I am closing the office. I realized that I haven’t healed anyone in 25 years, I’ve only been treating symptoms”.
To speak with him is the fairest testimony you will receive. After retiring from the practice of modern medicine he facilitated the healing of hundreds of open-minded, suffering individuals. All were restored to health by focusing on the mind aspect of pain, dis-ease and suffering. Mind creates the reality we bask or burn in.
Any change begins and ends there. Physics, Buddhism and simple observation proves this time and again.
If you wish to speak with Dr Rouleau or correspond, I will provide his info.

Comment by Ken

William, Thanks for your clear statement of where you’re coming from.  Would you clarify how this statement relates to your earlier comment that:  “Suffering is assuaged by replacing what was lost with a charade./It works. It’s how I learn and grow through  vicarious life experience.”  Your use of “pretence,” “charade,” and “vicarious” in that comment implies that mind really does not control the extramental world, that we do not really heal ourselves but only only escape into a world of make-believe.  You may be saying both, but I wonder whether pretending is the same as healing.

Comment by Lotophage

Because all is known. And all is resident in mind, including each act and it’s intent. An overt action which changes mood, condition, state of being-organic and physiological, or water to wine, is just a charade; nothing real or substantial is changed. Just perceived images in mind. The dream may be altered by intent, to “feel” remorse, loss, forgiveness or love.
All is amenable to complete and total, instantaneous change; In this cartoon reality. Scripted, produced and directed by mind.
Mas claro?

Comment by Ken

Quite clear. I’m not as sure as you are about these questions and am still exploring.  It helps to know where you’re coming from when you post and comment.

Comment by Lotophage

If you have the heart and will: As an art student in Madrid and Barcelona, Dalí assimilated a vast number of artistic styles and displayed unusual technical facility as a painter. It was not until the late 1920s, however, that two events brought about the development of his mature artistic style: his discovery of Sigmund Freud’s writings on the erotic significance of subconscious imagery, and his affiliation with the Paris Surrealists, a group of artists and writers who sought to establish the “greater reality” of man’s subconscious over his reason. To bring up images from his subconscious mind, Dalí began to induce hallucinatory states in himself by a process he described as “paranoiac critical.”
Quoting Castaneda may be more apropos, but Salvador has deigned to visit my dreamscape on numerous occasions and dispatched me to walk across Spain at the anniversary of our births, some years ago.
That journey took me to live in Denmark and Jerusalem. Follow the clues and your intuition.
Your journey is an exploration of limited self, which leads onto a limitless Universe of self. Enjoy. No fear.

Comment by Ken

I tend to appreciate the Futurists more than the Surrealists.  In particular, Umberto Boccioni’s Dynamism of the Soccer Player draws me into meditating on the energy and drive of change expressing the reality of the player’s body in motion.  See for yourself.  My senses see the colors and the forms.  My mind plays with these sensations to imagine the moving player, but my mind did not score the winning goal in the World Cup.  My mind appreciates the sheer poetry of that goal, but part of that imagining and appreciating is respecting the physical, extramental reality of the players, the ball, the net, the field.

Comment by rudi

Pain is a sensation, and as such, is impersonal. Pain leads to suffering when it is seen as “my” pain. No self, no suffering.

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