opening and closing, or, experiments with pleasure and pain

Energy centres. Awareness centres. Heart centre. Mind.

Shutting down. Closing off.

Opening up. Turning on.

The curious fact is that we can’t choose one or the other in certain circumstances, and not have that choice emanate out into other areas of our lives. The curious, challenging fact is that if we close down to certain experiences, feelings, and responses, we will most certainly, without a doubt, close down to others we’d like to stay open to.

Much yogic philosophy–and that of other spiritual disciplines–says that most of our turmoil in life comes from seeking pleasure or avoiding pain. The sages tell us that if we can pursue neither, we’ll suffer less.

Realistically-speaking, today’s yoga seekers are probably not going to devote themselves to a monastic state of living, avoiding shopping, sex, and Ciao Bella coconut sorbet.


“Intimacy and sex is the business of God. The union of opposites is God’s power. Sex is great because it’s something [spiritual] you can participate in.”

Yoga Master Mark Whitwell


“Pain is part of the human experience.”

Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa

There’s something strangely beautiful about pain–the emotional kind. It can serve as as much of a reminder of the poignancy of this fleeting human experience as ecstasy and love. I once moaned about heart-pain on a yogi-friend’s shoulder, “Oh, it hurts. I’m dying.” “No”, she said with a gentle laugh, “You’re living.”

So is this it, then? If we close down to pain, we close down to the beauty of love. We can’t practice avoiding pain without avoiding pleasure.

Yes, I know yogis, seekers, sages, Sufis, monks, and nuns report bliss and ecstasy deeper than any ocean, more all-encompassing than any physiological, emotional experience of love. Yes, I have been risen up and been that drop-in-the-ocean, have been held in the palm of God’s hand. And yes, that love is so much bigger than anything on this earth. But…I experienced it on this earth. But…I feel it on this earth in little ways all the time now.

So maybe it comes back to this. The human experience is divine. Pain is part of the deal. Pain is part of the beauty. And if we close down to it, we close down not just to love, but we close down to LOVE.

Dec 9, 2010 · Comment

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