There are two things I know to be (at least mostly) true: If someone recommends a book or movie or… almost anything to me, I’ll not enjoy it. I’m still figuring out why this is the case. The other thing I know to be true is that if / when I recommend something to someone, it’s usually enjoyed or valued or, in best case scenarios, both. Maybe I know people really well. Maybe I’m just a bitch. Either way, for a while I’d been encouraging a dear pal to check out Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” and had even offered to mail him a copy – which he pretty much made me promise I wouldn’t follow through with. Finally, and not long ago, said pal indicated to me that he’d picked up his own copy of
this book and was reading it. I was thrilled. Since that time, he’s posted a number of quotes from the book to his Facebook page and seems to be enjoying it well enough. If I can be honest, I’m more
than a little surprised at the speed in which he’s breezing through the pages of the book. I spend portions of my days contemplating things spelled out in this book, and I’ve read the book a number of
times, and it still takes me months to get to the last page. Perhaps he has more leisure time on his hands than do I. Perhaps all of this is old news to him. Perhaps the dark-n-wondrous life-changing-ness of the book is already in place in his life and he doesn’t need to masticate the material as much as I feel I do for the full benefit. I don’t know, and better yet it’s not really my place to know or care about suchery. However, this dear pal did send me a request: That I should write about what Tolle details as the “pain body.” So that is what this post is (supposed to be) about.
I called this post “Painus in the Anus” because everyone knows the concept of something being a pain in the ass. A pain in the butt can be anything that makes life less enjoyable, long-term
or short. But what if something was part of your life, was pretty much complicating your life on every level, and you weren’t even aware of it? That’s the pain body. It’s not just a pain in the
butt, it’s a pain in your very existence and there’s a close connection between one’s pain body and his ego (something else most people aren’t quite clear on, at last regarding what it really and
Since the request to write about the pain body came from someone who’s been reading Tolle’s “A New Earth,” I went to that friend and asked for any knowledge he already had regarding the subject. The digest version of his response was something along the lines of, “Not your karma, but having an effect on your karma.” He’s absolutely right.
The pain body, according to Tolle is very closely linked to human emotion. Many humans (most?) are basically possessed by their own minds and the patterns that the mind operates in. These patterns are essentially what Hindus (and others) call samskara. It’s like the deer paths in a wooded area – with enough travel, there becomes a really worn place, not just a path. Sometimes those worn places are actually like narrow ditches – quite deep. Similar impression-like grooves form within a person and account not only for one’s thoughts and behaviors, but also the resultant actions (aka karmas). Be sure, this is what so very much hinges on because as long as a person not only is adding to their internal impressions but also is not doing anything to smooth those grooves out, he or she will be bound to rebirth.
The pain body is a trip, be sure of it.
One of the first steps in understanding the pain body is to understand mind-identification. I think a lot of Hindus understand the basic trickery of the mind and then choose a path that seems not to center around it because it seems safer or because it’s easier for today. In truth, any path one might take that doesn’t afford a decent amount of focus on knowing the mind and all its components will have a tougher time not only getting rid of pesky karmas, but preventing new karmas from forming. This is actually a really vital step in getting anywhere in one’s personal evolution because we are not the mind – a challenge to recognize!
So, thought / mind is at times a tool of the ego (which Tolle writes about extensively). According to Tolle, emotion is as well and may be even more of a tool of the ego since emotions form specifically as a byproduct of thought and act primarily as fuel for this kind of fire. And lucky for us, the two are often not far from one another. They are so practically joined because, according to Tolle, emotion is the body’s response to a thought. So, essentially what happens is that the mind perceives something, emotions form in response to those thoughts, and then the two cycle off of each other. It’s a lot like smoking cigarettes being the smoker’s problem AND solution to that problem. When this ricocheting goes on without examination, Tolle says emotional story-making results. This nonsense constitutes the voice of the ego and ruins most hope for true well-being.
When all of this happens, we’re talking about the pain body. It’s a cyclical mess whirling around within each of us and varying in “size” and intensity depending on the individual. Memories are often a part of this, as are many other components of human existence. The pain body is a semiautonomous thing that forms when emotions and thoughts reverberate off each other, and then feeds on thoughts later produced. To be more precise, Tolle describes the formation of the pain body like this: The remnants of pain left behind by every strong negative emotion that is not fully faced, accepted, and then let go of join together to form an energy field that lives in the very cells of your body… This energy field of old but still very-much-alive emotion that lives in almost every human being is the pain-body.
The pain body is very complex and very prevalent – in fact, entirely prevalent. Everyone has one and brings one with them to this life when they are born. I see parallels here between what Tolle is saying and what “Hinduism” says about one’s individual karmas, which also follow one from one life to the next. Certainly, there is a very close link between karmas and pain body.
Karma and a pain body are definitely distinct. The mind perceives, when this goes unchecked emotions form as a result (this is a reaction), the two then pair up and perpetuate a kind of story telling that virtually entirely flavors one’s life view which in turn flavors that person’s responses / reactions to life experiences – the reactions and responses responsible for the creation of additional karmas, which in turn are interpreted according to the pre-existing psycho-emotional story telling. And the whole mess keeps it up. If a person doesn’t awaken in a fairly timely manner, it’s becomes increasingly tough to dig one’s self out of this kind of mire.
So where’s the silver lining in all this? Some might conclude that people not swamped in their pain bodies are necessarily more advanced or developed than those who are not. This isn’t necessarily the case. According to Tolle, the opposite is often the case: People with heavy pain-bodies usually have a better chance to awaken spiritually than those with a relatively light one. Whereas some of them do remain trapped in their heavy pain-bodies, many others reach a point where they cannot live with their unhappiness any longer, and so their motivation to awaken becomes strong.
So… For me, this is it. This is the pain body in a nutshell and really is the reason for why Jnana Yoga & Raja Yoga appeal to me so much. So much starts in our thoughts and can be transcended by evolving that part of human life. That transcendence, when achieved, affects everything else. Emotions, however, truly fuel so much of what goes into karma. You can think anything in the world, but when it comes down to it you’re actually moved by emotion, whether you recognize it or not. And since emotions stem from thought to begin with, it seems vital to know your way into, through, and beyond the mind. With that under your belt, your chances of forming hard-to-control emotions decreases greatly. And as we’ve discussed already, without those emotions feeding problematic mental stories (resulting in the cycle that grows the pain body), the whole ordeal is minimized, if not entirely avoided – which has a direct effect on karmas and virtually everything else.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha