February 25, 2007 12:40 PM

Life is Pain, Highness.

“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
—Westley (The Princess Bride)

The Pain of Two Arrows

“The untrained layman, when touched by painful bodily feelings, grieves and laments and is distraught. But the well-trained disciple, when touched by painful bodily feelings, will not weep, nor grieve, nor lament; nor will he be distraught. The layman, when touched by painful bodily feelings, weeps. He experiences two kinds of feelings: a bodily one and a mental one.

“It is as if a man is hit by one arrow, and then by a second arrow; he feels the pain of two arrows. So it is with the untrained layman; when touched by a painful bodily feeling, he experiences two kinds of feeling, a bodily one and a mental one. But the well-trained disciple, when touched by a painful bodily feeling, weeps not. He feels only one kind of feeling: a bodily one, not a mental one. It is as if a man is hit by one arrow, but not by a second arrow; he feels the pain of one arrow only. So it is with the well-trained disciple; when touched by a painful bodily feeling, he feels but one feeling, bodily pain only.”

I find that most of my pain is cause by the second arrow. It is pain that I inflict on myself with my own thoughts. This is the pain that hurts me the most. As I practice learning to listen and make space (in my own head) with meditation, I find that I sometimes can recognize when my mind has turned on me.

That said, I am more filled with aches and pains than most people I know. I feel all sorts of sorenesses and discomforts that I can only assume most of the world ignores. This is undoubtedly due in no small part to my being a dancer. My body is my instrument; my body is my temple. Mindfulness trainging makes me more aware that the pain is both there and not there and that no pain lasts forever, but I haven’t been able to focus my way out of a migraine yet.

And still more confusion comes up for me, especially after reading The Shaman’s Body. If my aches and pains are my dreambody communicating with my waking self, what exactly is my dreambody trying to say? The book has several clear cut examples of people’s bodies saying specific things, but I feel that the constant stream of information I receive from my body isn’t giving me a clear message. Perhaps I have to listen more closely, but before reading the book I was trying to live with all of the ticks and hiccups of my body by recognizing them but not letting them rule my days. My latest strategy is to listen to my body while trying to maintain an awareness of the two arrows, the physical pain and the mental pain. I will have to see how this works over time, but in the short term, I will say that I have been suffering from less mental anguish lately. And I have been able to move, but not get rid of entirely, the pain of my pelvic floor being ‘out’. It seems there is hope of the hypochondriac after all.

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