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The Pleasure Pain Treadmill

Basic ideas:

  • Seeing that good and bad, or pleasure and pain are in all things.
  • We can use pain to promote change.
  • Ultimately, we can get off the treadmill of pain and pleasure.

Our desire to avoid pain and experience pleasure tends to push us around if we are not paying attention. When we use introspection to learn about the mind we see that we all try to avoid pain and move toward pleasure in everything we do. This is a huge thing to understand fully.

Pain tells us something is wrong, but we tend to overreact and begin to avoid all pain and discomfort. This creates a treadmill of pain and pleasure. Where we are constantly trying to manage our states of mind by moving away from pain and toward pleasure.

We can deal with this three ways:

  • Do nothing.
    • How does this hurt us? Well, if we’re unconscious of it we end up not being very durable. We end up running from any and all pain we see. We might think we deserve no pain, and so whenever it comes up, we feel like we’re cursed or unlucky.
  • Secondly we can learn to use pain effectively.
    • Think of someone who’s life situation is fine, versus someone who is in pain. The person in pain is motivated to change. The person who is fine, may want to change, but will often not go through the bother or work to change because there is really no motivation to do so. This is the first way to use pain effectively. Become aware of it.
    • We can also use pain for gain. This is a way to develop in a worldly sense. It can help us do things like lose weight, or perform better at sports, and evolve spiritually or behaviorally. We can learn to associate pain to things we’d like to change, rather than where they happen to fall. Examples of this might be associating pain with being out of shape, or associating pain to not meditating.
  • Lastly, we can get off the treadmill of pain and pleasure.
    • Pain is inherent in all things. The duality of being shows us that there is both good and bad in all things. Good and bad are facets or opinions of things and situations. So it is unwise to try to always get the “good.” It just won’t work. Seeing this truth is a huge teaching.
    • Learning to accept pain as a part of the experience is a great teaching of meditation. Pain/pleasure treadmill response is the normal human response to being. What would an exceptional response look like? How can we achieve that state? Meditation is one way.
    • We place ourselves in an accepting mode, and train that response to stimuli. Boredom and frustration, and even physical pain can come up during meditation. It is training to learn about the nature of our relationship to pain and pleasure, and ultimately have the ability to get off that treadmill.
    • We learn to stay through different painful events and not judge them. That lack of judging gives us a different, and better, experience of both pain and pleasure. Then we are off the treadmill.

Learning about this allows us to wake up to the understanding that this is how we’re built. We also learn that we can use pain to grow. And lastly, we learn that not fearing pain or being attached to pleasure allows us a deep freedom. Those experiences are a part of the oneness of being. We can learn to relate to them differently.

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Finding the Similarity

It would help us greatly if we decided to look at others for our similarities instead of for our differences. It is very natural to see someone of different color, or ideas, and focus only on the differences. In this show I discuss some examples of how we focus on the differences, and how things might be different if we were to realize how alike we all really are.

When we come from a place of looking first at differences, we tend to assume that everything about the person is different. If we can realize that we are basically similar, and that the differences are in the details and perspectives, then we would have much less conflict in our lives.

The ways in which we are all similar:

  • emotions
  • physical traits
  • needs
  • behaviors
  • we all want to prosper
  • etc.

Focusing on differences is very natural. Similarities seem boring. Of course we all breathe. Of course we all feel fear. Not very exciting stuff. But coming into a situation with that literally on our mind helps us to see things in a cooperative way instead of a conflicting way.

What if nations focused on similarities? What if religions did? How might that change our world?

Show Music: A Lesson In Crime by Tokyo Police Club

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Nationalism and Levels of Identification

Consciousness expands from being an infant through different identifications with social groups. The highest level on average is the national level. We identify with our family, our neighborhood, our state, our nation. Why not our world and beyond?

When survival of the team or family depends on loyalty, it is important that we are able to identify with that level. Our survival at this point is becoming more and more dependent on a world view. There are views beyond the world view, but the world view would be the next meaningful level of identification.

At the base of this identification is the ego clinging to an idea about itself. The problem starts when we let that identification get so deep that we make choices that are against our values. Nations that go to war would be potentially the greatest example of this. How does taking human life become so easily justified during war? It does because it falls under the umbrella of protecting a nation. Protecting the idea of “us”. But there is only “us” in a world view. There is no “them”.

Nations often fight because they are lost in value systems that are out of sync. If we were able to widen our level of identification to a world view, we would grow past many, if not all, of our conflicts.

Do we gain anything, or lose anything by identifying with different levels of social structure? Is it better to identify with a neighborhood by being in a gang, or a city by being proud to be from that place, or a nation, or the world? There are less people to fight, less outsiders as we widen our identification.

The next view beyond world view would be a universal view, or a unified view. I only mention this to say that we are not done once we’re at the world view.

We use these levels of identification to grow. We expand as we move from one view of our group to the next wider view. That said, what would change if we, as individuals, started to identify with a world view, instead of a national view?

Show Music: At Home And Unaffected by Decomposure

Referenced: Bill Hicks, Ken Wilber