How is it possible to find a sense of well-being in pain and suffering?

“The only good thing that can be said about feeling pain and suffering is that at least you are alive. Words like deadness, lifelessness, dullness have strongly negative connotations precisely because we associate life and experience with goodness. When we feel pain, generally we do not want to stop feeling alive, we just want the pain to stop.

It is very important to link into that constant feeling of aliveness as something good and inescapable. That is the goodness of your heart which can never be destroyed, even by death. It is not something conditioned, because it does not come and go. It is always there, alive, sensitive and responsive.

If you can turn towards this alive quality with the confidence that it is the Indestructible Heart Essence* itself, pain and suffering themselves can become a tremendous inspiration.

We can start by noticing when we feel pain, suffering and dissatisfaction and really try to turn towards the alive quality of that experience. You may find you can only touch on that quality for a fraction of a second. That live quality is your sense of well-being, a fundamental quality of the Indestructible Heart Essence.

A good way to connect to our natural sense of well-being is to work with bodily feelings. We need to start to actually feel our bodily sensations and the natural sense of well-being associated with feeling more grounded, centred, connected and balanced. As we experience this, we discover a sense of well-being is actually a state of heightened sensitivity and responsiveness.

We can start to train ourselves to notice the connection between sensitivity, responsiveness and a sense of well-being. It may be something quite simple, like enjoying fresh air, or sunshine. Notice how your heart and mind open as you look, listen or enjoy any of the pleasures of the senses. Notice your response, the sense of communication and the intensely alive quality.

It is as if something has touched a tremendously sensitive spot and focussed all your awareness at that place. Something has made you notice a quality that you have within yourself to feel and experience being alive and sensitive. It is something you can open to more and more, and you can let go into that place, enter that place, because it is none other than your intrinsic nature.”

Lama Shenpen

*Indestructible Heart Essence is also known as Bodhichitta, Buddha Nature, or the Nature of Mind. It is the core theme of the Discovering the Heart of Buddhism course. Linking into the experience of the Indestructible Heart Essence is both the beginning and the end of the training.

This is an excerpt from the ‘Sensitivity’ course book of Discovering the Heart of Buddhism, part of Lama Shenpen’s Living the Awakened Heart Training – supported distance learning in Buddhist meditation, reflection and insight.

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