There is a very beautiful analogy by Ramana Maharishi, an enlightened master from India.
A dog chews a dry bone. As it chews, fragments of the bone will poke into its mouth making it bleed. The dog thinks the blood is coming from the bone and it enjoys the blood. It continues to chew on the bone for the pleasure of the blood! It doesn’t realize that the blood is coming from its own mouth and not at all from the bone.
If violence excites you, you wait for that kind of incident in your life. If pain excites you, if you believe life is a pain shaft, you wait for that kind of incident in your life in order to strengthen and reinforce your belief. That is the general human psychology. Although people claim they want to break the violence shaft or pain shaft, they secretly nurture it.
Let me provide a deeper understanding.
The pain that you had ten years ago, the pain that you had nine years ago, the pain that you experienced seven years ago, the pain that you experienced three years ago, and the pain that you experienced yesterday are all unconnected, independent, individual incidents. But you start connecting all of them and create a shaft of pain. You connect all these thought shafts and create one big shaft. You start thinking and believing, ‘My life is pain.’ Is that true?
What happened to all the sweet incidents of joy that you experienced in between? Surely, there must have been at least a few moments of joy in between? They are simply forgotten. They are never picked to form a shaft. So the shaft, any shaft, is never true, because it focuses on only a fragment of your complete biography.
First, you start archiving the painful memories for utility purpose. You archive all your pains, probably for medical history sake or to tell your doctor. By and by, you start believing that all these pains that happened in your life are connected. You decide that your life is pain, your life is suffering. The moment you come to the decision that your life is pain or your life is suffering, you create hell for yourself.
For example, until yesterday you were only walking, you were not able to fly. You know in your past you never flew, you only walked. Can you believe you can start flying from tomorrow onwards? You can’t. You know tomorrow you will still only be walking. You rely solely on your remembered past experiences to predict your future, eliminating many new possibilities.
There is one more important thing about pain that I want to share with you. This may look mystical, but let me be honest, Patanjali says very clearly that any pain can be used as a door to enlightenment. The technique is to not label it as pain. Just observe and see what is going on. See the way a small child experiences something new with all excitement and curiosity. Do this with situations that you currently label as pain and see how the whole experience transforms.
When you just observe the pain, you come to understand two things.
First, in the process of pain you will see your body rejuvenating itself, reconstructing itself. You incorrectly label this process of rejuvenation and call it pain.
Second, when you stop labeling it ‘pain’, you stop resisting the pain sensation and it can heal more rapidly. When you label it as pain, not only are you fighting with the self- healing process, you are also elongating the process and creating more pain.
The joy that you experienced ten years ago, the joy that you experienced nine years ago, the joy that you experienced three years ago, and the joy that you experienced one year ago are all independent, individual, unconnected thought shafts. At the present time, you connect all of those thoughts and create a big shaft of joy.
You may identify your joy with an object, a person, or a space like a particular vacation resort. Now you will try again and again to bring that back in your life, to bring that person, that object, that space, or that same incident back in your life. Try as you might, you will not be able experience the same joy again. This puts you in further pain!
In life, we constantly create either shafts of pain or joy. Once you create a shaft of pain, you try to break it. If you create the shaft of joy, you try to elongate it!
But you don’t understand that you can neither elongate the joy shaft nor break the pain shaft – simply because the shaft itself doesn’t exist. It is just selective memory. The very shaft is your imagination.