In his book ‘Practicing the Power of Now” which teaches mindful self-awareness, Eckhart Tolle characterises, that is actually gives a character to, unhelpful thoughts and feelings that habitually arise in us. He calls the personal accumulation of pain in us, comprising thoughts, stories and feelings, “the pain-body”.
I think that this is a useful perspective, in that it allows us to dis-identify from unhelpful thoughts and feelings by seeing them almost as an entity, a ‘pain-body’ , which is distinct from our core self.
As taught in all mindfulness practices, but described in his own clear terms, Tolle suggests that by becoming more conscious of the pain-body, the stories, thoughts and feelings it comprises when they arise, through being mindfully present in our experiences, we can become aware of how the pain-body takes over at times and influences our lives. I find this way of seeing our pain as quite liberating in that it separates it out from our true nature, facilitating a distinct de-fusion from unhelpful states of mind. Tolle writes:
“The pain-body doesn’t want you to observe it directly and see it for what it is. The minute you observe the pain-body….the identification is broken. A higher dimension of consciousness has come in. I call it ‘Presence’. You are now the witness or the watcher of the pain-body. This means that it cannot use you anymore by pretending to be you, and it can no longer replenish itself through you. You have found your own innermost strength. ”
What he is referring to here is not new to mindfulness practitioners, but worded in an interesting way. By becoming fully aware of the contents of our thoughts and aware of our feelings, moment by moment, we can become a non-judgemental observer. Once we have achieved this awareness, this knowing that we are more than just our thoughts and feelings because we are actually capable of watching them, we realise that we are not defined by thoughts and feelings as we may have previously assumed. We feel our pain, but we do not have to consistently identify with our pain and fuse with it, believing that it is the core of who we are. This is the beginning of freedom.