- Thoughts for inspired living

December 12, 2007


Filed under: John Morgan's Blog — John Morgan @ 8:52 am

I’ve seen enough ads on TV for personal injury law firms to be familiar with the terms, “pain & suffering.” In my mind they were one word painandsuffering . . . which reminds me of a story.

When I moved to New England in 1980, I kept hearing the name of these islands during the weather reports. The weathercaster would say, “. . . and showers are predicted for the Capan Islands. I wasn’t an “A” student in geography but I thought I would have heard about these islands, especially since they mentioned them in every forecast. It took awhile but the gift of awareness finally showed up one day. They were referring to the Cape and islands (Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket).

So back to pain and suffering. I thought of them as one term until one day they separated in my mind and became separate entities. It became quite clear that the pain the ads were referring to was physical pain, and suffering was the mental component of the situation – the anguish, despair, depression, etc.

The Buddha referred to suffering as the most prevalent human condition. His 4 Noble Truths explore suffering – the presence of, the cause of, the end of, and the plan to get there.

In our culture we always have pain (physical and emotional) and suffering associated – stimulus/response. If you have one, the other must be present. It is a reality for most, but it can’t stand up under the light of truth.

Pain is a stimulus and suffering is a conditioned response. It happens so fast that we forget that we own free will. Free will arrives when get some space between stimulus and response. Then and only then do we have the ability to choose. Most of our choices are made for us due to the social, cultural and parental conditioning that has been handed down throughout the centuries. We absorb it, and worse, we believe it. Conditioning robs us of choice.

Then The Grasshopper chimed in on the topic. He said,

“The degree to which you suffer is proportionate to your resistance.”

I took that to mean that when we resist or deny reality, we suffer. It’s always the case.

The reality is we do have the ability to choose another response. We can choose another option to pain. When we become aware of other options, other than the one of replaying our suffering thoughts over and over again in our mind, we attain freedom.

Did you ever notice that circus elephants are only restrained with a rope around one of their legs? The elephant could easily snap the rope with its sheer power, but it doesn’t. That’s because when they were trained as baby elephants, they were restrained with heavy chains. They would try and try to move, but their efforts were always thwarted. The sense of being powerless against the restraint translated from chain to rope as they became adults.

True freedom is not being a slave to your conditioning. You do have a choice. The choice is to notice that you have a choice. Noticing is the beginning of slipping a wedge between stimulus and response. Consistent application of this noticing practice gives you more options than you ever thought possible.

Your physician or counselor may be of assistance in alleviating the pain. Only you can choose to end the suffering.

All the best,


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