Mind = Full

Question from Tsahpina:
Hey SmartLX, and the other smarters, what do you think of Buddhism, which, as far as I know, says that when there is pain in your life, you just get away from it mentally, and you are OK. I would say this is bullshit. You?

Answer by SmartLX:
“Get away from it” isn’t an appropriate description of the Buddhist approach to pain. I’d say it’s more a case of compartmentalising it.

Here are two pieces by advocates of the approach; this one by a Buddhist is easy to read and this one by a humanist goes into more depth. The core principle is “mindfulness”, being fully aware of everything that’s happening in your body and mind. That means accepting physical and mental pain as well, but “taking it as read” in a way: yes, there is pain, and now let’s take in everything else and enjoy life. This shift in focus means, in principle, that pain does not have to equal suffering and is possible to live with.

I honestly don’t see a problem with this. It doesn’t rely on anything supernatural, it only suggests a different way of thinking about the inescapable reality that there’s always pain of some kind. A lot of Buddhist practices actually find favour with atheists and humanists precisely because they don’t require the supernatural or even belief itself, only mental effort. Buddhism does have its supernatural claims and dark aspects, but besides a religion it’s an expansive body of work that frequently does its best to be practical.

As for whether it actually works, there has been a lot of research with largely optimistic results, and if you just Google it you’ll be swimming in anecdotes. People aren’t claiming their pain is gone, only that they can bear it better and enjoy life more. Good on them, I say. It’s okay if a healing effect is purely psychological if the malady is too.

4 thoughts on “Mind = Full”

  1. (Posted by Tsahpina as a question)
    it seems impossible for me to respond to your answers to my questions in the given space cos i don’t know what to write in the space that asks me about my url. i have no idea what url is, so i write yahoo but it does not work. but, when i write a new question, like this one, it does. this is why i do it. maybe you can explain to me what to write in the space where it tells me to write down my url. whatever it is.
    so, this is my response to your answer to my previous question, about Buddhism.
    from the two links you sent me i understand that they talk about physical pain while i was of course referring to psychical pain.
    so, i still stand on my primal stand, that human brain can not avoid mental pain from losing something and especially someone dear to us, somebody we would rather die but see hurt. our children, and would gladly give our lives for them if needed.
    so, i believe that yes maybe some men can do what Buddhism suggests, if it suggests that this can be done not only for physical but also for mental pain too. most men, but not all. my son says he would commit suicide if the worst happened to his little autistic son, and he has another healthy little boy. so my son is like mother to his children. like a woman.
    and no i don’t think all women can, if any, do what Buddha suggested, compartmentalize…sorry for the errors, but i take it you are a native English speaker so you understand what i mean even with them…women cannot do that, their brains are incapable of kinda ignoring the pain.
    it does not help that i know we will all die and that then nothing will matter any more for us, but while we are alive mental pain brings about suffering, and only time can heal it, AND IF, and if not, then there is always the sweet suicide.
    what Buddha was saying was like fighting off gravity.
    he was a fake and i am sure about it.
    its a case of king wearing no clothes and everybody pretends they don’t see it, but i am the child who says KING IS NAKED. cos he is and love and truth and justice are the three goodies of human lives, in that order. suffering is the INEVITABLE consequence of mental pain and everybody knows it. but Buddha was a prince, and i beg your pardon, what is a prince/ss but one having money so s/he does not have to work to sustain her/his life.

  2. Tsahpina, the URL/Website field requires a full web address, but it’s optional so you shouldn’t have to put anything in if you don’t want to. If you do enter something it will check it as a link.

    You may not be able to speak for all women, and I certainly can’t, but I don’t blame you for doubting. There are a lot of testimonials by women, but the only way you’d know for sure is to try it yourself, and you may not think it worth the effort. Mindfulness training has been heavily secularised recently, to the point where it’s easy to get started on it without ever talking to a Buddhist, so there are options out there.

  3. The way I see it … the Buddha was on the right track. His 4 truths are logical more or less (take away the Karma aspect).
    The essence (he gives) for the cause of mental suffering is this -that we cling to things. And most of Buddhism is about learning to rise above the clinging/ attachment. To maybe acknowledge it but not be overly swayed by it.
    To someone in a situation like your son, this suggestion of rising above attachment may seem inhuman. I look at it more as supra-human (above human, in the positive sense) than inhuman.

    A more biological way to look at mental suffering and happiness is this – our brains are impacted and governed by neurotransmitters (“brain chemicals”) … most of our moods are governed by the brain states induced by these chemicals. Also our brains are not permanently hardwired – there is neuroplasticity and one can change neuronal structures in the brain “for the better”. Techniques like mindfulness, meditation etc. are ways of doing so. And some of the teachings of Buddhism (most of what is prescribed in the 8-fold path for e.g.) help one to make sure that stressful situations (which are part and parcel of life) do not induce permanently “low” brain states or form “bad” neuronal patterns.

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