49. Robert Ludden, Chatsworth, CA
Dear Mr. Ralston,
I’m going through your book on the power of Unknowing, (The Book of Not Knowing) for the second time. I am particularly interested in the chapter on pain management. I think I have made it work A BIT, but before I go further, I am wondering about a couple of things. I seem to be only scratching the surface. Since I am now an older man, I do have different pains cropping up from time-to-time but I need further guidance. Have you been able to apply it in other pain situations beyond visits to the dentist? Why does it seem to “work” at one moment, and fail the next? When testing it, is it possible to “turn it off for a moment” and then return to a painless state again the next? If you could comment on these for me, and perhaps include some further advice beyond “refusing to manufacture pain” when it is experienced, I would certainly appreciate it. I am enjoying and appreciating your thoughts so very much, and will certainly read more. Thank you, sir!
Yours in peace,
R. Dean Ludden
Of course it is applicable to other situations besides the dentist — it is applicable to every situation. Pain is always available and in many, many different forms. It is at the heart of all suffering. You are looking in the wrong place, caught in the understandable desire and so loop to eliminate pain. But this is the very activity that creates pain to begin with. When you think of it as a “technique” to avoid pain and feel better, it is a minor accomplishment and simply a part of the same pursuit you are already in with self survival, just with an added piece of knowledge or a new skill. As such, any skill has to be applied. It doesn’t arise on its own since it springs from the domain of knowledge and will.
Pain though seems to arise on its own since it is simply answering to the dynamics already set in motion through the fundamentals of self survival. If you still “need” pain, meaning if the self still needs to be a self and attached to all that you identify with, then you will continue to create pain. This is why it seems like pain simply arises, as does every other reaction and interpretation. Why do you need to know a flower is a flower, or that the light switch turns on a light? You certainly don’t want to do away with these interpretations — it wouldn’t even occur to you to do so, would it?
Because you need such interpretations to manage life and know what’s around you so that you can relate to it properly. Just so with pain. Reactions such as pain and pleasure are “doing” something with what’s interpreted. Just as you want to know, you also want to manage what you know so that you relate and act consistent with your self needs. This is the function of pain and pleasure. I know this is all hard to grasp experientially. Try not to relate to pain via a technique to eliminate it. Work hard to understand the nature of pain and why it exists. When you become deeply and experientially conscious of what pain is, then you’ll have a better idea of how to relate to it. As long as you identify with a self — and undoubtedly you will continue to create that reality — you will experience pain and suffering, just as you experience pleasure and joy. They go together. Yet you can change your relationship to all of this, and you can eliminate a lot of pain which is just a confusion and unnecessary.
But I go into this a bunch in my book, and you’ll likely hear it better in your next read. So, beyond becoming more conscious about what’s what, I’m afraid my advice is the same: either refuse to manufacture it, or enjoy it.
Contemplate 15 min per day until you get your next email.
What is pain? Set out to grasp the nature of pain. What is it? What is pain made of? How does it exist? What is pain?