Pain is a visitor. It will stay with you, serve a tenure and go away. If you focus on the pain, you won’t be able to enjoy the Life you have as long as the pain lingers on!
I had been postponing a series of dental procedures for a few years now. The reason has been simple: lack of money to fund them. As happens with most urgent and important matters, my dental situation started causing me discomfort over the last few weeks. After a round of opinions, and a full mouth X-Ray, my dentist, a very mature and reassuring lady, Dr.Aparna, advised that I get rid of two of my teeth. One of them at least required a surgical procedure. I am 48 now. And barring the ‘usual’ stuff like what most of us deal with – colds, virals, two severe bouts of rheumatoid arthritis and a now-benign asthmatic condition – I have never been in hospital with someone cutting me up. My diabetic condition too means that I must be be extremely wary of any invasive procedure. But we decided to go with Dr.Aparna’s advice. In preparing me for the procedure, she asked me: “Sir, how would you describe your ability to handle pain?” I thought for a moment and said, “My ability to handle physical pain is average, but I am very good at handling emotional pain.”
Indeed. While our bankruptcy has helped me become emotionally resilient and I must say I do deal with mental trauma very efficiently, I have, mercifully, not had much experience dealing with physical pain, especially on the health front. Yes, bouts of severe asthma and rheumatoid arthritis can be very painful – and debilitating. But I have not had any surgery done on me. So, this procedure was to be a different experience.
(The last time I had had a dental procedure done, at least from what I can remember, was when I was six years old. We used to live in Jaipur. And the name of the clinic was Mohan Dental Clinic. It was bang opposite Prakash Talkies. My dad bought me an ice-cream and took me to watch a movie playing at Prakash – it was called “Zanjeer”, a movie that not only marked the arrival of the Angry Young Man, and Superstar, Amitabh Bachchan in Indian cinema, it also marked the beginning of my fan journey, which still continues, with him! Interestingly, when I walked in for my extraction yesterday, I was reading a new book “Written by Salim-Javed: The story of Hindi Cinema’s Greatest Screenwriters” (Penguin, Diptakirti Chaudhuri). The book, among so many other stories, looks at the evolution of Amitabh Bachchan, considered to be Salim-Javed’s protégé.)
This procedure was indeed a new one for me. The local anesthesia administered made the process simpler – and in fact “cool” and “enjoyable”! Dr.Aparna had told me to expect pain within an hour of the anesthesia wearing off. And surely it arrived. Initially, it seemed unbearable. But I decided to employ all my spiritual experience – and learning – to deal with the pain. I was reminded of the Buddha’s most powerful – and my favorite – saying: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” I made a choice: I was not going to suffer. I was not going to resist the pain or ask how long it would be there. I told myself: let it be; and let me be. I guess it worked. I slept peacefully last night. I still have a nagging swelling and very mild pain – I feel both only when I think of the procedure and the wound it has left behind!
I can now totally relate to what Ramakrishna Parahamsa (1836~1886) once said. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in the beginning of 1885. During his last days he was advised not to speak – so as not to aggravate his ailment. But he preferred meeting, interacting and conversing with his followers. He told his doctors, “My disease and I peacefully co-exist in my body”. This is such a spiritual and evolved perspective.
Most of us see all forms of pain as traumatic because we don’t know how to detach ourselves from our situations or conditions. We also think that pain arrives in our Life with an agenda to make us suffer. Here’s what I believe it is: Pain is pain. Pain has no agenda.Whether it is the bankruptcy – and resultant complexities we are having to deal with daily on that count – or a dental procedure that I had to deal with or any other situation/condition that may come tomorrow, I will suffer only if I wish the situation/condition didn’t exist. Suffering is clearly a human creation. Pain is a natural process. In Life, what goes up will come down, what is gained will be lost, the human body will have its share of wear and tear and you will be faced with myriad grievous situations – physical and emotional – yet, all this pain can’t touch you, won’t affect you, if you just treat your pain as a visitor and choose not to suffer. Simply, pain has no voice if you can mute the suffering!