The move across country has brought many longed for changes, and some that are completely unexpected. Recently I took the time to go through my Netflix queue. Usually there are anywhere between 150-200 movies, documentaries, and TV shows listed there. Most have been there for years. I went through, one by one, and found myself recognizing that I either was no longer interested, or knew I would never take the time to actually watch that show. By the time I got done, I had less than 50 shows remaining. As I thought about what had been cut, it fell into two categories – dark horror/thrillers, and sad documentaries. I thought about my what entertained me while living in LA, and realized much of that repulses me now. I was not expecting that change, and it got me wondering what was behind that shift.
One piece fell into place when recently I was listening to a talk by Eckhart Tolle on my short commute to and from work. He talks a lot about something he calls “the pain body.” According to Tolle, this is his term for the accumulated, old emotional pain that we all carry with us. It is made up of negative emotions that were not processed and dealt with when they arose. We all have a pain body. Sometimes it is dormant, and we don’t even know it’s there. Sometimes it flares up and takes over.
After one of his talks, Tolle was taking questions from the audience and one person asked, “Do violent movies and television feed the pain body?” After a moment of silence, as the entire audience waited for his great and copious wisdom on the topic, he simply answered, “Yes.”
That one word answer was all I needed. The lightbulb went on.
The last few years in LA, I was living full-time in my pain body. Old, accumulated pain completely took over my life. I was not happy at work, at home, on my commute, and especially in my head. I never seemed to get my feet firmly under me before another wave hit and knocked me into a swirl of constant emotional pain.
During that period, you would think I would have sought out the peaceful… the calm.. the quiet, but that is not how the pain body works. Once it is in charge, it feeds the person’s ego and makes it stronger, making it harder and harder to let the pain go. It becomes completely entwined with who the person thinks they are. Let go of the pain? How could I? I would cease to exist. You’re asking me to commit suicide!
Oh, I remember that feeling well.
Now it makes sense that when I wanted to be entertained, I was drawn to the pain of the victim whose life was detailed in a soul-searing documentary. It makes sense that zombies, mega-disasters, and action-packed thrillers filled my queue. Pain, pain, pain! I wanted more pain to feed the pain body that had become me.
Right now my pain body is dormant, and I have no desire to witness pain (which is part of what makes recent events so awful). The pain body is still there. I am well aware that I still haven’t dealt with it properly. It will re-appear, though hopefully I’m better equiped now to deal with it, and hopefully the waves will be smaller and fewer inbetween. But the other thing that will surely help, is that being aware of what I’m drawn to will be a useful tool in understanding whether or not old, accumulated pain is taking over. It will help me deal with it all much sooner, and that’s definitely a good thing.
Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. Letting your pain body grow stronger, is pure suffering.
So, take a lesson from my experience. Look at what entertains you, and ask yourself, “What does that feed?” Adjust accordingly.by