We’ve all said or thought this to ourselves at some point in our lives. For some of us this is spoken every day. For some of us it’s rarely acknowledged. For those of us who feel it often, we feel and acknowledge our own frailties in handling life and being in a challenging world. For others of us who can’t acknowledge this within ourselves, our perceived control over our lives becomes the deciding factor. Inclusive of whatever approach or combination of them we choose to recognize, we all face the physical, emotional and mental realities of the tremendous chasm that exists between what we perceive as pain and what we perceive as pleasure. Regardless of the romanticism we attach to either, the difference existing between the two is not as philosophical or spiritual as we might think. Its roots are firmly planted in the perceptions we feel in our physical senses and we always tend to react in ways that show themselves through what we do to our physical bodies and the perspectives and attitudes we take in handling them.
Pain and pleasure are two sides of the same coin. This is well known and accepted as part of conventional wisdom in just about every culture and is used as fodder for every assumption and determination in constructing our beliefs concerning why we are here and what paths we must take in order to minimize our pain and heighten our pleasure. When we think of pleasure, we define it as something we’d like to move toward. When we think of pain, we define it as something we would prefer to escape. Both pain and pleasure are irrevocably interwoven into our presence in the physical world. They are born of the separation between what we want and what we don’t want. The necessity of our having to navigate between these two is inescapable until we leave these bodies. The best we can do, while we’re here, is to minimize the chasm between the pleasure of having what we want and the pain of not. The next question that might come to our minds would be was there ever a time when they didn’t exist? My answer would be yes. It was before we came into these physical bodies. For those of us who have, at the least, a sense that we are more than who we appear to be in this world, this will be easy to swallow and move on with. For those of us who believe that when we die there is nothing more, this will seem foolish and unfounded and remind us of the terror we’ll face in dying. I obviously ascribe to the first perspective.
It is my belief that before we came into these bodies, and even in utero before we took our first breath, that there was no pain or pleasure. There was no separation from or division of what we felt. There was no absence of food. There was no absence of warmth. There was no absence of nurturance. There was no absence of comfort. We floated in an ocean of feeling with other beings all moving together in waves of communal feelings. What one of us felt, all others felt. There was no perceived separation. If we think of this state in religious terms, we might call it Heaven, Paradise, Nirvana. There was no knowledge or perception of good and evil. There was no separation. When we are born we are, essentially, “ejected” from Paradise. There is quite a bit of debate in metaphysical circles as to whether this is our choice or whether some force or authority “makes” this happen. Regardless of which perspective is “right,” when it occurs a tremendous separation occurs. We now perceive a separation between our having and not having food, warmth, nurturance, comfort and all the qualities that were one before we emerged. This separation is our first encounter with pain. This is our first perception of the polarized world; the difference between the pleasure of being unified before we’re born and pain of separation after. This is our first bite from the tree of knowledge. Everything in our new existence is now perceived in terms of opposites. This pain of division and separation make an indelible impression on our psyches. It sets up a field of energetic movement that creates the beginnings of our mind. This state is unfathomable by our adult minds as it is non-verbal and, as yet, is without language for us to describe. The urge to return to Paradise, Nirvana, Heaven, is now our primary urge within the new field of separation. It underlies every other urge we, as adults, might feel or describe throughout the rest of our lives. It is all powerful, all consuming and all knowing. Sound familiar? As we grow to accumulate language, our mental faculties and the loud and intense presence of the physical world through our senses, our attention to the physical world overwhelms and buries our primary urge deep within our subconscious. As we grow older our awareness of this urge may exists well beneath our awareness but its effect remains at the root of every urge we feel toward pleasure and away from pain. Its main connection and activating influence now registers almost solely through our physical senses. Knowing this we can now understand the urges we feel in our daily, mundane encounters with differing life circumstances and perspectives. Our primary urge, still unrecognizable, now registers easily and simply through our senses and within our mind and our need to rationalize and plan our physical and emotionally triggered actions. My explanation may have taken the long way around but I think it was necessary to have a clear foundation and understanding of what we’re dealing with. Let’s take a look at its many faces and how it presents itself as an available avenue for relief in our daily lives.
Food: In all these faces there are many ways, including our primary urge that they may present. Food is no exception. Purely from a physical point of view we can be hungry. That hunger can simply be an urge to literally refill an empty stomach and/or to supply missing nutrients. In addition to simply feeling hungry our body, very specifically, can create urges for specific foods that it knows will supply missing nutrients. For example, if our body is low on iron we may feel an urge for either spinach, raisins or perhaps eggplant, all of which contain helpful amounts of iron. Additionally, if we have become sugar or flour junkies, our body will have produced an inordinate amount of yeast through which the body will also sense and put out an urge to consume cakes, bread and sweets to replenish the sugar and feed the yeast. Further submerged and mixed in with these urges there may also come an additional urge for “comfort food.” We can translate that into eating in order to feel “full,” loved and secure. I believe that this is only one of the causes underlying our current epidemic of obesity in addition to many others including the availability of fat producing and nutritionally inferior fast and processed foods. I also feel that eating to feel loved is also one of the detrimental consequences of our contemporarily dissolving family structure leaving more of us feeling disconnected and separated from our loved ones than we have ever been or felt before. Filling ourselves with comfort food has become a method serving to mitigate or minimize our feelings of loneliness or disconnect from those whom we want to feel close to. This aspect of pain through lack resonates all the way down to our primal desire to return to the time when we had feelings of warmth and nurturance before we were born.
Sex: The urge toward having sex is a much less disguised urge than food. For most of us it is a tension or separation eliminator described as a pleasure experience. Of course we have many mental and emotional rationalizations for experiencing and following the urge. In attaching ceremony, romanticism and an unbelievably large list of contingencies to the act as we do, we do our best to color and euphemize, if not obscure, our raw and base animal physical urges. Essentially, we each often allow ourselves to follow through on the urge but only within and through our personally generated list of required contingencies. These are different for everyone, however, the nature of the primary urge remains the same: to return to a feeling where there was no separation, no pain and no feeling of lack, aka, total union with our partner (mother, universe, etc.). We feel this the most poignantly at the point of orgasm. The degree of the orgasm we experience is relative to the degree with which we have been able to totally disengage from everything else in our physical and emotional world except for the present moment with our partner. Our partner, or whatever fantasy we fixate on, is the avenue or doorway to that reunion. Orgasm is the closest we can come to the death experience while remaining within our physical bodies with the exception of a sneeze which is a much shorter and less intense experience. It is almost the total but temporary dropping of resistance we can do while inhabiting a body. The only thing closer to death is an NDE or near death experience during which, while remaining aware, we reside outside the body for a short period of time.
Sleep: When we sleep naturally and deeply we are able to return to that place where there is no separation. The reunion gives us a recharge in energy. We can know that we have temporarily and totally dropped the resistance and feelings of separation accumulated in the body when we wake up refreshed and energized. In normal sleep we are able to bridge the gap and reconnect our “separated parts” and revisit “heaven” if you will. When we haven’t, we may reawaken tired and only partially renewed or, if we’ve had a rough night, even more tired and worn than when we laid down. Normally, at the end of sleep and when we begin to re-inhabit our body, we pass through an in-between state where we will find ourselves dreaming. Here we begin to recollect some of the resistances and separations we use to identify ourselves in our physical waking world. I find it interesting that as infants we spend an inordinate amount of time sleeping as if to gradually immerse ourselves into the harsh world of the physical and when we are close to death we also begin to spend more time in sleep as if to prepare for our transition back to our pre-birth union. Essentially, natural sleep is a reunion with our “larger” selves. We can compare it to a weekly staff meeting where we assess the week’s events and plan the week to come.
Creative Abandon: When was the last time you got so involved with a project or endeavor that time and the world around you seemed to totally stand still or even disappear and nothing existed but you and what you were focusing on? This is a partial reunion with that non-separate or larger self. When we create in this way there is no separation between what we see, feel, know and our vision of our completed project or endeavor. We feel totally aligned with our unified endeavor but are still able to “impartially” utilize the worldly polarities in its construction. In this way any artistic endeavor can become a natural vehicle for identifying and aligning with that unified part of ourselves. It could be music, painting, sculpting, writing, theorizing or any other activity that lends itself to creative activities. It’s interesting that the etiology of the word recreation is actually re + creation: that is, enabling the return of our unfettered and stressless pre-birth state.
Drugs: Any artificial substance that can reduce or alter our physical or mental sense acuities and their ability to register our feelings of pain, pleasure and separation can be considered a drug. In this classification of artificial substances, we can also include alcohol, nicotine, hallucinogens and even our relationship with food, especially, since many of our foods are becoming more and more artificial. Many of these substances are used simply to alter our perspective and awareness of our world, first for comfort and enjoyment, but then, as the substance becomes interlaced with our metabolism, it becomes a deadly coercion and necessity simply to exist and function. As a side note: there has been tremendous dispute over the definition of what we consider to be an addiction. My perception is that compulsions and addictions are both in a continuum relating to urges and needs but where the addiction interferes with our normal functioning and survival and where a compulsion is simply a diversion that encompasses a large amount of our time and effort without interfering with our daily function. My definitions may be simplistic but are designed to bring the clarity of understanding and comprehension.
Religion: Within our worldly cultures many systems of thought have arisen attempting to explain our place in the world with a measure of its perceived structure focused on our effectiveness and responsibilities for the life situations we find ourselves in. The people who construct these systems, through prior internal work and questioning, have come to a comprehension of the pre-birth state that we have emerged from and have attempted to describe it in terms of being originally directed or created by an external being or deity who has a specific intention or plan that is unknown to us. This has the effect of relieving us of our responsibility for dealing with our worldly situations and leaves our circumstance, essentially, in the hands of this deity partially disconnecting and relieving us of our worldly tensions and giving us the perception of moving closer to our pre-birth state through prayer and worship of the attending deity. Like any other substance or circumstance, it is effective is assisting us in dropping some of the stresses and tensions of residing in our polarized physical existence. Additionally, like the prior methods described, it too can become a compulsion or addiction connected to the relief of the pain of division and separation from our primary pre-birth state overshadowing the control and effectiveness we have through choosing and being accountable for our life circumstances.
Death: When we disconnect from our bodies we return to the pre-birth state effectively eliminating the tensions and polarities inherent in living in the physical polarized world. Like those of religion who might have sensed or recognized the pre-birth state we have emerged from, and with the pain of division and separation having arisen to an intolerable intensity, suicide becomes an option for relief. I find it interesting and sad that it is considered illegal and immoral by many cultures to assist anyone who is attempting to relieve themselves of their overwhelming pain and separation in the lives they have found themselves in through suicide. Perhaps we have allowed the laws of our man-made religions superseding our instincts and urges to have too much say in our personal choices and needs.
My theory of where we have emerged from to inhabit these bodies is based on my own experience and contemplation resulting in my chosen belief system. I, alone, am responsible for my own choices. Inevitably, we must all choose for ourselves what to believe and how to conduct our lives. It’s important to know that we have the final say in our decisions and chosen actions. Yet, wherever we go or return to after we leave these bodies, who can say? But I do know that our beliefs are our own choice based on each of our own personal experiences. The truth is, I can help myself. So can you. Like an all-night bender, we can drown out our perception of this reality…but only for a while.