Each day presents a new challenge. As I recover from a long period of poor health, features of my character and habits bubble back to the surface. However, ‘recovered’ to me does not mean ‘just the same as before’. To make that equation would be to miss the great opportunity this has been to grow as a person.
So each day, and in increasing depth due to meditation practice, I am reminded of old behaviours that do not rest comfortably with who I am now, today. The strongest of these at the moment is attention seeking through stroke deprivation.
In psychology there is this concept of a ‘stroke’. We are socialised into what is a standard quotient of strokes for us as individuals when we grow up. There are positive and negative strokes. Positive strokes have a greater effect. But a stroke is a stroke at the end of the day.
If deprived of strokes, it is quite common to go on an emotional rampage and look for strokes – either positive or negative, it doesn’t matter – from others.
I am stroke deprived at the moment. My partner suffers from SAD and is emotionally absent. And in addition I am taking some intentional time away from some family members, thus depriving myself of strokes there. Strong emotions have been surfacing as a result. Attention seeking ones. ‘Why doesn’t anyone want to do what I want to do’. ‘Why won’t you spend time with me’. And even actions: getting up ridiculously early this morning with the intention of going in to work three hours early just to show the household that I am not getting the attention that I want.
Tolle coins a useful phrase: the ‘pain body‘. The body of pain which has a sense of time about it – mostly stuck in the past – and which we all carry around with us to a greater or larger extent, into the present moment and present day.
We can choose to feed this pain body, which needs more and more negativity from others in order to ‘feel alive’, or we can choose to starve it, coming back into ourselves, weakening its hold on us, and leading us to realise that our pain bodies are not who we are: they are simply a body of negative emotions possessing and controlling us.
So this morning, instead of stomping out of the house early to show that all is not well, to show that I am hurting and not getting what I want, I have had 20 minutes of tranquillity meditation, and a blog entry to write.
Apparently, each time we starve these emotions, their grip on us weakens. This is important for me. My pain body includes suicidal tendencies. I am faced with a choice, and the choice is a stark one. I can either keep giving in to the pain, letting it control me, going back to the dark places of the soul. Or I can slay my demons, cast out the pain, and each day get closer to a greater, wholesome, more fulfilling existence.
My pain body invites me to think that there is little point in living sometimes. ‘What’s the use’. Before there can be any other point to it, there first has to be simply the point of starving the pain out, the pain which leads me to think that way.
Life is a precious gift. In the Buddhist sense, to have incarnated as a sentient human being is a very rare gift. Who knows when or if it may come around again. There is only one opportunity to reach Nirvana; grab it while you can.