The Pain body is caused by an accumulation of fears. It is the buildup of what we might call ‘negative emotions’ that now reside in us – that belong to us. These fears would have been created by our resentment, envy, jealousy, anger, even rage. Or they could have been caused by great loss, sadness or shock; any number of emotional reactions to what Life has thrown at us. But whatever labels we put on these emotions they stem, basically, from our deepest fear: loss of what we think we are. That which is doing the fearing is not ourselves but an imaginary creation – ours self image – an image that has taken on an identity of itself; that pictures itself as a master rather than servant it should be. But it is a creature with feet of clay and, deep down, it knows its weakness: it is an imaginary creation. This self-image is what has creates our pain body.
So where is this pain body? Does it reside in the blood and flesh and bones of our physicality? Is the pain body seated somewhere in the material brain? Or is it actually a body unto itself? By this I mean, something which has dimension and surrounds and interpenetrates the physical but is not actually physical itself. It would seem, according to those who have made a study of it, that this is the case. It does have dimension. It mostly isn’t the physical. It is mostly metaphysical – of the mind. This concurs with my interpretation founded on my own experiences. Moreover, I now deliberately seek experience of it. I do this every day through my meditational practices.
But to explain further.
If we are in good physical health, we don’t experience the emotional pain body very often. The pain body has not yet manifested in our physicality and generally cannot be readily felt. It becomes more apparent in old age. Even when it does well up, making itself felt in a temper tantrum or fit of uncontrollable rage, it is generally not consciously noticed. This is because we are immersed in it. It’s a bit like a fish asking where the water is. We’re lost and overwhelmed and are not able to realize it for what it is. By this I mean the pain body is not identified by us as a body. To us, we just label it ‘our emotions.’ The old saying, “You made me lose my temper,” is so often believed by our ego-minds. Blame it on something outside. We do not say, “You triggered in me something which just came up automatically. It was largely out of my control.” Yet when we calm down we sense the emotion is not of our real self. “I don’t know what came over me,” we quite often say. “I don’t know what got into me to do that. That isn’t like me.”
Also, if we’re in good health, the sensation of pain is confined to the pain body except on those times when it overflows – is triggered by something – that prompts it to rise up into an emotion which is manifested in the physical, thus causing a reaction. It is a chain reaction. Incoming thought is interpreted arousing a feeling which explodes in a reaction. It seems instantaneous, but it is a series of causes and effects.
If we are rundown or sick, or a lack of vitality has been caused – not by a virus or by bacteria – but is psycho-somatic, then chances are the pain body has permeated down from the subtler area in which it normally resides. It has filtered down so that some of its essence now resides as a disharmonious vibration in our physical body. This disharmony could then result in a breakdown of our normally healthy molecular structure, I suspect (I say ‘suspect,’ for I’m not a medico and do not know for sure) thus triggering an imbalance which can lead to illness.
We know from scientific experiments that making a person angry brings about a change in the body. That is, an emotional change caused by thought can change our body. The flight or fight syndrome is well known. When a person is red-faced with rage they are at war within themselves. It is a war between their real self and their self-image. If they can’t control it, their self-image has won.
Have you ever been really upset and noticed an area of pressure on the scalp? I’ve experienced it and I’ve seen people wince and their faces contort just as if something was pressing down on their heads. If you’ve experienced this, then you’ve experienced a little of the pain body in action. It is always there, but is only felt on those occasions when a strong emotion-arousing event brings it on.
I would like to go on record as saying that even if one hundredth part of the intensity held within the pain body flowed to the surface all at once the shock of it would kill you. In fact, I suspect even one thousandth part of what is in there would do this. There is tremendous energy in there. Small wonder then that it sometimes breaks out the way it does.
Have you ever felt your body was made of lead as you plodded along filled with some sort of dread? Or danced lightly, almost weightlessly at the promise of something good about to happen? This has to do with the whole person, which includes all of the bodies which surround and interpenetrate the physical. But to get back to our pain body.
Every thought we have has its emotional content. Mostly, the emotional part is of little consequence, such as when we’re reading or making out a shopping list – provided we’re not worried about the prices. Or we could be reading a report which does not particularly concern us. But whenever we’re involved in something in an emotional way the thoughts we think go into us along with the emotions aroused by that thought. As the late Vipassana Meditation teacher, Satya Narayan Goenka, stated in one of his lectures, “Some thoughts are like words written on water.” They are of little consequence and quickly dissipate into a sort of neutrality as far as our pain bodies are concerned. Some, however, are like “words written in wet sand on a beach, to be washed away with the Tide of Time.” Whilst still others are like “Words deeply chiseled in stone.” It is these last that give us real trouble during our lives. They are deeply carved and not easily removed. With most of us, they influence our reactions for the rest of our lives.
Yes, these messages and their emotional counterparts “carved into stone” do not easily go away. They might have long ago faded from our conscious recall but the emotional content of those words remains deep within us. Where? They stay within the pain body. Indeed, they are the pain body.
Unfortunately, they do more than just stay there. They grow. They are like living things which need nourishment. They get their nourishment by the additional thoughts we might add to them; thoughts of the same caliber or vibration. Hate thoughts build on hate thoughts. Jealousies build on jealousy thoughts. Fear breeds and multiplies on fear. All of this happens without our realization. Most of us are not aware of the consequences of our habitual thought. The growing goes on below our conscious level.
Every hateful thought, every fearful thought, is added to the pain body. They go into those areas which already exist and augment them. Painful thoughts beget even more pain, though it might subside below our conscious level and stay there for quite some time.
Where is the pain body? Well, I’ve said that it exists in and around the physical. It interpenetrates the physical. It is described by author and psychic, Barbara Ann Brennan, as a gaseous (invisible to our eyes, of course) and is the second level of our seven levels of being. It is part of the human aura.
Many of us are of the opinion that our physical bodies can actually feel pain. Why is it, then, that a hypnotist can convince a person they will not feel any pain and they do not? Why. It is because it is not the physical that feels the pain. Meat, done, gristle, blood and nerves that carry messages do not feel sensation. Something else carries that to us. Once again, according to Barbara Ann Brennan, there is a fine layer which covers (it also interpenetrates) the physical and it is via this layer that we feel physical sensation. This is the layer the Russian scientists refer to the Bio-plasmic Body and mystics sometimes refer to as the Etheric.
You might ask, “Okay, so where are we if we’re not our physical but have a physical? Or where are we if we are not our emotions but have emotions? Or where are we if we have thoughts but we are not our thoughts? Good questions all. Many wise men and women have answered this to the best of their abilities. One which I’d recommend to the Western reader is the book, The Act of Will by Roberto Assigioli, MD. But to move on.
The second layer around and interpenetrating our body with its subtle matter is our Emotional Body. The term ‘Emotional Body’ being used here to describe what it contains. This emotional body contains our Pain Body. All our emotional content is stored here. And don’t forget, it not only surrounds but interpenetrates the physical. It cannot be seen by the eyes of most people but there are certain gifted individuals who can see it. It forms the part of our aura which is often captured by Kirlian photography. You’ll find quite a lot of photos featuring Kirlian photographs on Google Images. Take a look, they’re quite colourful.
Now, as I said earlier, there are, according to many a mystic, seven bodies which make up our individual being; the physical plus six more. We’re an octave. We could liken ourselves to straddling the spectrum of seven interpenetrating bodies each of subtler substance. The Physical is at the lower end of that spectrum, the Divine Mind being our highest with the highest vibration in terms of frequency. Above that, it seems we blend into The All, or the Infinite.
Like rainbows colours blend one into another without a seeming boundary between so, too, our seven bodies. There are no absolute boundaries; just a gradient changes from one to the other. In other words, you could say there is permeability between them. You could say that any membrane between them is capable of leaking. What is contained in one body can flow upwards or downwards into the others – sometimes instantaneously.
Our sense of touch defines our world more than any other. Still, we can feel things we cannot see. We can feel the heat of the sun, the flow of the air around us. We generally are able to match up and combine the receptivity of one or more of our sense organs to make sense of our world. Not always, though. We do see mirages at times.
I have been a practitioner of Vipassana or Insight Meditation as taught by the late Mr. S. N. Goenka for twenty-seven years. Fourteen ten-day courses of total silence, around 23,000 hours of meditating twice daily, has brought to me an awareness that most people do not have: Immediate access to the pain body. I only have to stop my verbal thought and concentrate – even lightly – and I can feel the auric pain body moving around and through and within me. I can feel the reactions my awareness causes within that pain body.
You might wonder why I would want to do this. Why would a man wish to spend hours of meditation just so he can experience unpleasant bodily sensations? For most of them are unpleasant. “That sounds like masochism to me,” you might say.
I do it to dissolve, dissipate, to melt away, – or at least to lessen – the accumulated pain which is held within my pain body. As it dissolves the pain-build-ups over time I become more relaxed, more balanced. It makes for equanimity. I’m more in charge of my negative emotional reactions. By allowing the pain to manifest and by not reacting to it, but by simply observing it clinically and without attachment, it arises and passes into a neutral state. Such is the quality of pure observation. It purifies.
By the continuing practice of this over time, one ‘purifies’ the mind. This is the essence of Vipassana Meditation. The end goal is freedom from the reactions of the pain body.
The sensations in the physical body fall into four categories, there being an element of each of the four in every arising pain body sensation. The categories are Weight: pressure of some degree, ranging from almost imperceptible to really heavy pressure. The second is Movement. This can range from wild waving around to hardly a movement at all. The third is Temperature: hot to cold. And the fourth is a kind of Viscosity, a stickiness such as that contained by grease or oil. Each of them is supposed to signal particular emotional content, but I cannot define each with any authority. Heat is supposedly anger. Wavering away is fear. The stickiness could be clinging. The Weight is that ‘pressure’ of life we so often talk about it. But, as I said, I’m not entirely sure of these interpretations.
The Buddhist practitioners of Vipassana mention Sankaras. These are conglomerations of emotions bundled together to the extent where they actually take on a sort of solidity and shape. The shapes are carried within the Emotional Body (which, as I reiterate almost ad neuseum) surrounds and inter-penetrates the physical. If allowed to continue to multiply and grow in size they will eventually cause us not only emotional-mental trouble, they will over-spill into the physical. In other words they could well manifest as a physical ailment.
Many years ago I experienced a sankara of the type described above. It had shape. It was three dimensional. In my case it was right in the middle of my forehead and was shaped roughly like a jagged piece of shrapnel. I could feel and discern its shape by examining it with my, at that time, extremely focused awareness. As I focused on it grew hotter and hotter. Eventually I could hardly stand it. However, I hung on, eyes closed, bringing my attention right into it. My focus was firm. I did not flinch or give up.
After some time, burning like a hot iron, it gradually began to writhe and wriggle. It seemed to go berserk under my inner gaze. Eventually it began to dissipate. Weaker and weaker it became until finally something very strange happened. I had a vision and a different sensation.. That vision was of me falling through a trapdoor at a hanging – my hanging!
What followed after that was a bliss which is too difficult to describe. Waves of sheer ecstasy flowed unceasingly from head to feet, and feet to head. Over and over, from top to bottom, bottom to top. I’ve never experienced anything like it before or since. I can only assume that I had shed a dreadful sankara which I’d possibly kept within me, either from an idea envisioned and forgotten, or an actual lifetime previously lived in which I had died. It seemed that real.
So, from this I deduce that we all have emotions within our pain bodies which give us trouble. These emotions will continue to give us trouble until we take steps of alleviate them. However, I must stress that if it’s taken us all of our lives to build this stuff into our emotional surrounds (and inter-penetrating us, remember!) then we’re unlikely to get rid of these buildups with just one or two sittings in a Vipassana Mediation retreat. With me, I’ve been at it since I was fifty. I am now seventy-six.
Has it made a difference? I can only assume it has. Maybe significant changes would have come into my life without my Vipassana practice- maybe not. My decision has been to do something about this most important aspect of our lives – finding out what we are with a view to knowing the answers to Life’s bigger questions. Vipassana is said to be a “Royal Road – no, an autobahn” to quote S.N. Goenka on this sort of knowledge. Whether you want to take that road is up to you.
I will finish this rather long essay with an observation from an observation written at the front of a Vipassana journal by old Goenka himself:
“I am here to offer you something which is the highest attainment of the Indian culture and which is also the most precious gem preserved by the Burmese heritage – this is Vipassana Dhama, the technique of self-observation and truth-observation to free oneself from all the ills of the life.” (italics, mine)
My best wishes to you all.