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Painfully Aware

Everybody experiences pain in one way or another, but we all have a different tolerance for it. This is only one aspect of what makes it a complex topic to explore and discuss. Whether you're a masochist or not, it oddly even has a direct correlation to pleasure. Much like the nature of the duality of life, one cannot appreciate joy or satisfaction without also having experiences that cause suffering. Even from birth, we have thirst and hunger that cause discomfort, we cry for help, and eventually we return to a state of peace and happiness with a new appreciation for just how great it is.

Going along with that, obviously some people who don't have their fair share of hardships can end up being spoiled by it, and as a consequence they will lack that appreciation for the simple pleasures in life. On the other hand, some people have so much exposure to suffering and neglect that they don't expect anything good to happen to them. I've met people like this who sabotage themselves at every turn, inviting pain into their lives because it's the only thing they are familiar with from their formative years, so they can't imagine how to even respond to a situation that doesn't revolve around their victim mentality.

I don't blame these people for developing such behavior because it's how they learned to survive, and nobody ever taught them that life was too important to be just barely holding it all together. However, if you're a fully grown adult who is in control of the direction your life is taking, then it's your responsibility to ask yourself if you want to live a life of suffering and attracting that kind of experience without any optimism or hope that there's a better way. Most likely, your defenses are going to be broken down and you'll become even more prone to manipulation and being the victim of abuse. It becomes a vicious cycle and unfortunately many who are rescued from it end up right back in it because they still weren't taught a different way to function or to even be conscious of the position they putting themselves in.

Now there are certainly differences between emotional pain and physical pain, although anyone who has grieved a tremendous loss would probably describe the sensation as close to physical pain as if they would have actually been injured. That in itself is a bit of proof that pain is created in the mind, and if you consider chronic pain then you may realize that the brain actually ignores it on a pretty regular basis whenever it's time to go to sleep and shift to a different state of consciousness.

Even if you can't imagine having chronic pain, you've probably experienced some sort of serious injury or maybe even an intense stomach or tooth ache at some point that has been so overwhelming that you needed a sedative or some form of medical intervention. If you had to wake up every day and live with that pain, you can probably imagine that your brain, being the powerful and adaptable organ that it is, would eventually register it as something that you can deal with and still function pretty normally. That's just an example of how tolerance can become a tool to help you make it through the more painful experiences in life without constantly needing help, but it can also become a curse because people may not understand the gravity of what you're going through.

Tolerance is still a good thing to have going for you in the long run, but it can be confusing for someone who can't imagine being able to function while being in pain to see you smiling or laughing and generally acting like nothing is wrong. If you don't spend a lot of time mentioning the fact that you're in pain, it can be easily forgotten or overlooked by the people around you. Maybe they'll even assume you're just tough enough that it doesn't bother you anymore, or maybe they just won't even believe you.

I used to think that my best defense against pain was to keep my mind distracted with something, because if I was really focused on one thing then I wouldn't be thinking about anything else. I'll be honest, it does work, but only for as long as I stay distracted. Trying to occupy my mind at all times is not only a very disruptive way to go through life, but also mentally exhausting to the point where sometimes my brain just totally loses power. If my tolerance isn't high enough for the pain I'm having, I become more frantic trying to keep myself distracted and I'll use so much energy task-switching that I don't have enough left to accomplish what I wanted to do. At that point, it's hard not to stress myself out over poorly managing my time and focus, and I usually end up either feeling way worse or just shutting down so I feel nothing.

Have you ever seen someone jump from one task to the next in almost a manic state, and then just abruptly stop functioning? My bet is that their pain tolerance is being put to the test, whether the affliction is of emotional or biological origin.

Coming to this realization has reinforced my desire to learn more about how our minds work and how we can control our state of mind, AKA "consciousness." I've been trying to distinguish this term from "awareness" to see if the distinction can help me feel like I have more power over how I feel and function. I wrote briefly in my last Instagram caption about how I view these as different things much like a hierarchy, so far as that awareness is a state of existing in a broader sense, and consciousness is a more specific description of how that awareness is being perceived.

As I've been struggling more recently with my productivity and ability to function on what I would consider a normal level for me, I began to realize that I've been trying to tolerate not just my usual chronic pain on a physical level, but also the emotional pain of Paka getting cancer and passing away so suddenly. For a while, I was actually using the time when I was not able to be distracted to basically become unconscious to my reality in an attempt to avoid experiencing the intense feelings that surround the awareness of my situation. I honestly felt so powerless after seeing how aggressive the cancer was and especially not knowing what could have even caused it that I made an unconscious decision to just surrender a lot of the power I did have.

It's a harsh reality to acknowledge that nothing has really stolen my power from me, but there's no doubt that the weight of the experience I'm carrying has left me feeling weak. I got the idea that it would hurt me even more to try to describe the actual heaviness of it, but at the same time, I look at the struggles that other people have endured and I feel confident that any amount of stress in our lives is either something that we can find the strength to overcome or something that will force us to change how we carry ourselves.

Do you want a literal application of this metaphor? I'm able to deadlift more than twice as much as I can chest press. If you aren't just lifting for personal gains and you actually have a certain weight you need to carry for a practical purpose, you have the option to adjust your stance and distribute the weight differently.

So how do you accomplish this when the load you're carrying is all in your mind and not actually resting on your shoulders?

You have to prepare your mind in almost the same way that you would before lifting something really heavy in the real world. First, you have to remember to breathe. Then, you channel the power from your core to connect with your sense of strength and stability. By preparing yourself like this, you're able to withstand more stress than you're used to for as long as you can stand it. As long as you remind yourself that you won't have to keep doing it forever and that it's not only going to get easier the more you do it, but it will also make you stronger, you'll get through it and be able to look back at the struggle with astonishment that it was even hard for you in the first place.

Are you still breathing?

Awareness just determines that you and the world you're perceiving exist. Consciousness dictates how well you perform against this burden of awareness. Consider it to be like a mental muscle that can be exercised to improve your health or help you reach your goals, and treat it with as much importance.

Life is going to get heavier than you'll ever expect. You don't have to be able to predict what obstacles you'll have to face, but if you learn to exercise your strengths, you'll be pretty well prepared.

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