My friend Kari had a mean ol’ Monday this week. Kari suffered through a severe toothache all last weekend long. She scheduled a dentist appointment for first thing, even before work, in the morning. Her dentist performed a root canal because the tooth could not be easily salvaged.
After paying for the procedure, Kari was ready to go to work. However her nearly new Dodge SUV wouldn’t start. The idiot lights on the dashboard lit up, the heater motor blew air, but the engine did not turn over. So, Kari had to call a mechanic’s garage to have her car towed away. She was given a rusty Ford minivan as a loaner to drive until the parts for her Dodge arrived for the repair.
Kari told me her ordeals were bad enough as they were, but the monetary costs were the final straws. She had to pay $700 for her share of the dental copay. To make matters worse, the dental clinic did not accept her credit card as payment, so she had to use her debit card instead. Add to these worries, the new starter, relay, and mechanic’s fee estimate for her car was $1000.
After sharing some pleasant small-talk for a few more minutes, Kari thanked me for allowing her to dump her woes onto my shoulders. With a wane smile, she got into the decrepit loaner Ford and drove away.
For some reason, people like to unload stories of their pain on me, but too many people don’t have the patience to listen to my complaints. Sometimes, I feel like a doormat when that happens. With Kari, those scenarios are different. She is one of the few acquaintances who extends the courtesy of hearing about my slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. For that, I’m very grateful. It’s good to have friends who are with you in times of pain and in times of fun.
“There is something terribly morbid in the modern sympathy with pain. One should sympathise with the colour, the beauty, the joy of life. The less said about life’s sores the better.”–Oscar Wilde
My old guru frequently taught that life is full of unsatisfactory moments. We feel unhappy and displeased when unpleasant sensations and emotions occur. Birth is painful, death is painful, aging can hurt, unhappiness pains us. If we want something but cannot have it we feel dissatisfied, if we own something lovely then lose it, we hurt. When a happy, pleasurable experience comes to an end we feel down. When we lose a loved one, we cry.
When we want our lives or other people’s lives to be different than what they are or desire something or someone we don’t have, we often forget to fully appreciate what and who we already have. These are causes of emotional pain. Oftentimes, when we understand the roots of our emotional pain, we can more intelligently deal with it and not just indulge the pain or deny it.
Sometimes the emotional pain is strong or long-lasting. This is when we can confide in a friend, a counselor, or other psychological professional. If physical pain is acute or chronic, we need to seek help from a medical professional.
Kari managed her physical pain by having her dentist care for her mouth. Kari eased some of her emotional pain by telling friends about her horrible day on Monday. She’s reasonably happy now, but will feel even better when her car has been repaired and back in her possession.
Sometimes, when I notice my own sufferings I remember the teachings my spiritual teacher held in high esteem: Be sure to have the right view of life and events. Approach daily life with the right intention. Don’t gossip or use harmful speech. When going about daily activities, live skillfully and “do the right thing”. Have a job or career that is in alignment with high ethical values. Do chores and work honestly with the right amount of effort. Remember to be mindful. Remember to practice the right amount of concentration. These are the elements of what is formally known as the “Noble Eightfold Path”.
I try to do what I can to learn how to live life more skillfully and more harmoniously with my inner nature. I’m still not in perfect alignment. Life takes a lot of practice.