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Find What Feels Good

A tree that is half in daytime and half in nighttime


With all this talk about pain, it can be easy to focus on pain. To analyze it, search for triggers or ways of getting rid of it, experiment with it, or simply practice being with it and allowing it.


Indeed, pain is an unpleasant experience that we generally want to get rid of. And when pain has been around for some time it often requires us to learn about it, its patterns, its nature, and understand it a bit so that we can make wise decisions about what to do when it shows up.


Not to mention that when pain is present, it can be difficult to focus on anything else.


All this can leave us in a world of pain. A world in which pain rules supreme. A world in which other sensations or experiences get overpowered; pushed to the corners of our awareness by the sheer weight of the pain experience.


But pain is just one end of a wide bandwidth of sensory experiences, including what most would label as its polar opposite: pleasure.



What about pleasure?


If we think of the world in terms of polarity, or opposites, we will see that just about any way we can label something has an opposite: light, dark, up, down, short, long, pleasant, unpleasant, smooth, rough, good, bad, etc. And of course, between each pair of opposites lies a broad spectrum.


But just as we wouldn’t know what short was if we had never experienced long, or what up was if we had never experienced down, or light without the experience of darkness, we wouldn’t know what pleasant was if we never experienced unpleasantness.


So the poles—the two ends of the opposites—depend on one another to exist. They create each other. So by experiencing pain, the opportunity for pleasure is created.


This doesn’t mean that by experiencing pain we will automatically experience the equal and opposite amount of pleasure. But it does mean that the opposite end of the spectrum exists. Sometimes we just need to look for it.



Looking for it


A very common coping method that we use when pain (or other unpleasant experiences) persists is numbing. We reach a point where we essentially put the pain out of our mind. Push it away to the edges of our awareness so that we can function. This may happen consciously or subconsciously.


In some ways, numbing can be helpful, as it can allow us to focus on other things so that we can do what we need to do. But a side effect of this is that it also dulls our other body sensations along with the pain, and can lead to a numbing of all felt sensations in the body.


So as silly as it may sound, sometimes we need to practice experiencing pleasure. Sometimes we need to look for it.


At this point, I should clarify that I am specifically talking about the felt sensation of pleasure, or, pleasant sensations that are felt in the body.



Where to look


Where can we turn when we feel enveloped by pain? Where can we look for its elusive dancing partner, pleasure?


We can look within our own experience.

  • We can find a (relatively) comfortable place and position to sit, lie, or otherwise rest. We can focus on the breath, feeling the sensations of our body breathing. We can allow our body to sink into the surface that’s supporting us, noticing how it feels to relax a little bit more. We can notice sensations moving and changing against the backdrop of the stillness of our body.

  • We can find a (relatively) comfortable rhythmic movement to do. Maybe walking, maybe dancing, maybe moving our knees or feet side to side while lying down, maybe rocking forward and backward on hands and knees, maybe something different. We can notice the breath, how it moves throughout our body. We can move in synchrony with the breath, noticing the sensations of movement in our body. We can allow our body to sink into the movement, noticing how it feels to move with little effort.

  • We can notice the sensations that arise in the body when we feel love, eat good food, help somebody else, do something fun, create something, express ourselves, or simply appreciate this moment of being alive.


And with practice, we can find more things that feel good, infusing more pleasure into our lives.



What about the pain?


Experiencing more pleasure doesn’t necessarily result in experiencing less pain, but it does mean experiencing more pleasure.


Finding what feels good is really the practice of opening our awareness to include the body once again. When we un-numb our body, we will find a world of sensations, including pleasant sensations.


And perhaps pleasure and pain can even co-exist. Perhaps the presence of pain doesn’t have to mean the absence of other felt sensations in the body.


Perhaps with practice, we can move from a world of pain to just a world, which includes pain, pleasure, and everything in between.



Good luck out there,

Andrew

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