How Do I Survive the Pain?
How do we summon the courage to look at animal abuse that makes us all want to look the other way? If we don’t look, we’re certain to never help the animals. Most of my students these days don’t ask me, “How do I learn to talk to animals?” They’re already doing it. The most common question is “How do I survive the pain?” Here’s an interesting way of looking at it. This wisdom comes from one of the sermons of Dr. Raymond Charles Barker, one of the keystone ministers in the Science of Mind, in his book The Power of Decision:
You project yourself onto the screen of life. You are the cause of your own experience. Situations, events, and things proceed from your consciousness to appear on the screen of life. The screen of life is as impersonal as the motion picture screen in a theater. One week a tragedy may appear on the screen and the next week a comedy may be shown. The screen does not know what it is showing to the audience. It only knows how to show it. A motion picture scene wherein a man is shot puts no hole in the screen. It remains what it is. In your own life, you are the projector of your consciousness on the screen of experience.
I’m going to translate this passage to include the idea that every animal’s pain is also being projected onto the screen of life. The pain isn’t you. Dr. Barker takes it so far as to infer that not only is the animal’s pain not your own, but your own pain is not your own. When we can differentiate between the screen (our outer experience) and the film rolling through the projector (our intentionality) and even the light pouring through the film (our consciousness), we are no longer a slave to space and time.
Dr. Deepak Chopra uses a couple of terms that serve us really well: “silent witness” defines the “other you” in your mind when you are arguing with yourself, the “you” that knows better. This is the aspect of you that houses your soul and intuition. Within this inner sanctum, we can stand back — detached from our emotions — and identify that we are not our thoughts.
Dr. Chopra speaks of the “space between the thoughts” and refers to this realm of meditative mastery as “virtual domain.” It is here in this space where we can remove our thoughts and emotions from our mind in order to hear the thoughts of animals. If you can’t attain this distance from your own physical machinery, when you tune in to animals you’re going to be a hysterical basket case. If you think you are your thoughts and feelings, you aren’t going to be able to rescue one furry little head, much less tackle huge issues like bloody shark-finning.
Meditation and emotional distance require a huge amount of discipline; I don’t mean to be glib about any of this. My trigger that tells me I’m tuned in to an animal is the fact that my eyes fill up with tears. I cry through almost every contact I make with an animal. You can’t learn to feel their pain without feeling their pain. We’re ripping the fabric off the universe as you know it. It may be thrilling, it may be life changing, it may be searingly painful, but it will not let you exist in your current comfort zone. Our goals here are to focus on content and meaning instead of form, on motion and process instead of stasis. I can’t tell you it’s not going to hurt, but I can tell you that it will be worth it! How can we send waves of comfort if we can’t also feel pain? We must identify with the pain in order to locate it, share it, disperse it, and transform it into joy.