One City

Wow, my friends and I must be pretty pain-free according to this msnbc article:

“Stub your toe? Say ‘Sh#!’ You’ll feel better”

Everybody wants to avoid pain, but no one can. That’s not even a particularly Buddhist insight. Living beings do different things to make the unavoidable pain feel better, right?

Well, swearing turns out to be way more effective than other stuff!

British researchers, realizing that “How much pain you feel when you stub your toe or hit your thumb with a hammer is a result both of the signals sent by the nerves in your body and of your mind’s interpretation of those signals,” performed experiments testing how long subjects could keep their hands in frigid water. Those who cursed like sailors reported feeling less pain and could endure the water longer. The researchers speculate that the expressions of anger distracted the mind away from the pain sensation.

So, I guess cursing works as a palliative, but what do repeated expressions of anger do to us from a buddhist perspective? That’s an interesting question.

From what I’ve studied and from my own experience, repeatedly expressing anger makes a pattern. A pattern of being angry. When I feel things, pain, and I get angry because I don’t particularly want to feel them, I can chose to notice that, or immediately react with aversion or distraction. I can notice that, too.

One recommendation that I’ve been working with lately is to dive right into the pain, stare it down, and feel it. And watch it pass and watch my reaction to it. And feel that reaction of anger fully, dive into it, and feel what co-emerges from it. But not act out on it.

Another recommendation I’ve been working with, which is part of the lojong teachings in mahayana path in Tibetan buddhism, is to practice tonglen.

As Chogyam Trungpa states in Training the Mind and Practicing Loving-kindness:
“When you are in the midst of perverse circumstances such as intense sickness, a bad reputation, court cases, increase of kleshas,
or resistance to practice, you should develop compassion for all
sentient beings who also suffer like this, and you should aspire to
take on their suffering yourself through the practice of lojong [exchanging self for others].”

So, when I feel pain, I can feel compassion for all beings who feel similar pain, and “aspire to take on their suffering” myself. And then wish that all good things I feel go out to them.

I’m not even sure I know what that means, or precisely how to do that, but I try.

I think sometimes that practice itself might be a way of avoiding pain, but I’m still investigating that one.

And cursing. Hey, we’re only human.

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