Tuesday, 19 May 2009
Are YOU In Pain? A Primer in Reality
Okay, I normally would give my readers some nice graphic to go on, but today a simple diagram will do the trick. The topic today is simple - reality. What is, and isn't. And why should you be interested? If you are in pain, and no longer want to be, then you need to know this. If you don't mind suffering, or if you are one of the precious few who are genuinely at peace with themselves, and mosey along, there is nothing to see.
What causes pain?
Let's keep this simple. We have 2 experiences - an outer experience and an inner experience. What is the outer experience? That is the air you breath. That is the chair you are sitting on. That is way of it. It is the way things are. No particular reason. It is the way your child looks at you. It is the way the stars twinkle at night. It is the way clouds are in the sky. That is reality, pure and simple. For some, that is God. Why? Because reality rules. You may or may not like it, but it makes no difference. It ain't going away.
The inner experience is your story. These are the thoughts you have that are related (or unrelated) to outer experience. Your inner experience is the story you tell yourself, and when you believe it, you may be letting yourself in for a world of pain. When you sit in a room, that is your outer experience. When you are "alone" in a room. That is a story. Alone is a story. It puts yourself mentally in a place where it feels bad (or good, depending on what you associate with being alone). When you tell yourself that affects the way you feel, whether it makes you feel bad or good, better or worse, you are telling yourself a story.
How do feelings enter this?
Feelings are your indicator of how good a fit your story is with reality. If your story is in harmony with outer experience, with how things are, you feel great. Remember when you fell in love, and your lover could do nothing wrong? You were in love with reality, because nothing could go wrong. Remember how that could also change? How something he or she would do would be less than perfect, not fitting with how it "should" be done (because YOU know better than him, so there!) and then feelings of irritation, anger and frustration would arise? Your feelings tell you nothing more or less than how good a fit your story is with reality.
Most of us cannot function without stories. If you did Byron Katie's Work long enough, you would eventually get to the point where most stories would disappear. However, at the minimum, if you don't want to feel pain, match your story to reality.
The recipe for pain
If you want to solve pain, let's first see how to create it. This is easy for most of us - we do it so expertly we don't even have to think about it. So let's make it conscious. If you want to feel pain, disagree with reality. It doesn't matter how big or small a thing it is. Pick something around you and disagree with it.
"I wish that colleague would stop yammering so loudly at me." (Wishing someone would be other than he is - hopeless. We can't control the weather, nor the politicians, nor the boss, nor the cat. We ain't controlling the colleague.)
"He should buy me flowers." (Reality: He isn't. Get over it. I once had a dramatic experience of this at a Byron Katie workshop. She said, "Do I want a drink of water?" There was a glass and bottled water on the table. "Not yet. How do I know? I'm not drinking yet." Walked over. "Not yet." Opened the bottle. "Not yet." Poured water into the glass. "Not yet." Brought the glass to her mouth. "Not yet." Drank. "Now."
You want to be in perfect peace? You want what is happening NOW. Not one second before, not one second after. Why should you do it? You should or you shouldn't. This is a painless way. If you're happy with your way, no problem.)
"I am angry because she didn't bring the groceries home." (Is that true? Can you absolutely know that is true? She MAY have brought them home, but someone took them. You don't know. Even if she says she didn't, you don't absolutely know. But let's say you manage to convince yourself that she didn't, in fact, bring home the groceries. Let's look at this from a clean, practical standpoint. She didn't bring the groceries home. How do you react when you think that thought? You're upset and angry. Great place to be, huh? Who would you be if you didn't have that thought? Probably a lot happier. It's NOT the fact that the groceries didn't get brought home. It's the thought that you are thinking which is messing up your peace of mind.
The underlying corollary to that is "She SHOULD have brought the groceries home." You have a story about that, whether culturally embedded or just a random story. I'm not saying she should have or should not have. I am saying if you want to think that thought, don't be surprised when the pain hits home. Because she did NOT bring the groceries home. Deal with it.)
Keyword: some action that someone did or did not take (with a "should" hiding underneath)
To sum up
You want to be happy? Align your experience to reality. Even better, forget the story and just experience reality. The sensation of your breath. The feeling of sunlight. No labelling. End of story. That's how to end pain. But if you love your story more than your peace, keep your story. Just don't be surprised when the pain hits home.
NOTE: I do not represent Byron Katie's work. The questions are hers, and the explanations are mine. It is my way of relating to them. I have a deep respect and appreciation for The Work, but I am not affiliated with them.