There’s Pain and Then There’s Pain

A student asked Sensei about his philosophy of sword practice. He concluded his “question” by noting that to qualify as a martial art a practice must include suffering.

The Sensei disagreed. He classified the pain related to injuries, being hit too hard and hitting too hard as “unnecessary suffering,” noting these things happen occasionally but are most certainly not required.

The Sensei went on to say that if one viewed hard work and pushing endurance to the point of exhaustion as “suffering” there was some agreement.

I like Sensei’s clear distinction between “unnecessary pain” and being “lazy, soft and unfocused.”  It made me think about how I define pain in my own practice, regardless of whether it shows up during a long sit or on the mat.

I start with DNA, both physical and cultural.  I grew up in an urban, blue-collar home in a Rust Belt city. “Suck it up. Tough it out. No pain, no gain. Don’t be a baby.”  The mantras of the guys I hung out with and, in some cases, fought side-by-side with.

When I found my way to a dojo and a zendo I needed “new” DNA.  I looked to the lineage for help to re-examine pain and my relationship to it.  “Pain will go away and become bearable. To grin and bear it is to oppose nature.  Get used to it, it may save your life some day.”

New “guys” with new mantras and ultimately too heady for ‘dis Pittsburhger.

I needed to start by challenging Pain… insisting that it show its face.  As I look it in the eye, I discover that it has many faces and different patinas.  Like in any good Noh play many masks appear.  They are not necessarily the beliefs I grew up with but another chapter of who I really, really am.

What does your pain look like?


One Response to “There’s Pain and Then There’s Pain”

  1. Paula Schank Says:

    A moonlit night. Embrace it.

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