eckhart tolle teachings

A National Tragedy and the Pain-Body

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The pain-body is the aggregate suffering endured by humanity caused by the identification with the mind or ego. Most of us enjoy brief periods of respite from the ego, but some are trapped at all times in this egoic state - alienated from the world, from their community, and especially from themselves.

The shooting of a US Congresswoman in Arizona in January 2011, and the murder of innocent bystanders including a 9-year-old child born on Sept. 11, 2001 is a shocking and sobering moment for the US that is echoing throughout the world.

When such senseless acts of violence occur, we find ourselves asking 'Why?'

A meaningful answer can be gained only if we move past the obvious issues about gun control, security, and the divisive political climate within which this tragedy occurred. Let us set those issues aside and ask, "what is the source of this pointless violence?" The answer is clearly found in the pain-body.

The pain-body is the aggregate suffering endured by humanity caused by the identification with the mind or ego. Most of us enjoy brief periods of respite from the ego, but some are trapped at all times in this egoic state - alienated from the world, from their community, and especially from themselves. Ego-identified individuals cannot be present in any situation because their emotions are instructing their bodies to respond to a thought or feeling as if it were a real threat. This dysfunctional thinking can cause the body to react with inappropriate, negative emotions.

If this sounds like the profile of the Arizona shooter, it is no coincidence.

If this is a description of the violence we learn about on the nightly news, it is no coincidence; what we are witnessing is the collective pain-body of the history of humanity.

As we wake up each morning to begin a new day and a new week, we are met with developments of this tragic shooting and reminded that someone’s dormant pain-body had become active and then acted it out, in the form of a violent shooting rampage. We are shocked, the nation is shocked, we want to know more about the tragedy. We are so curious, we turn on the news programs to hear the latest news.

Yet, what is happening there? What is happening to those of us who turn on the news? Our pain-body has become active too.

The awareness that is most helpful to each of us is not why the shooter did it, but why we are allowing our own pain-body to get pulled into the drama of the tragedy. We are a people whose pain-bodies feed on the drama that the news anchors and journalists feed us all day long, like they did on 9/11. We participate in a massive pain-body frenzy that can have many awful repercussions.

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For example, the attack on the US World Trade Center started 2 wars. World War I was not started because an Austrian Duke was shot, but because Serbia refused to apologize to Austria for it. Is that a reasonable reason to start a World War? No. And whenever we see unreasonableness on such a large scale, we can typically point to the pain-body. World War I began because a pain-body moment (refusing to apologize) became the trigger point for a great deal of pent-up negative emotions that had remained dormant in the pain-bodies of Europe for a very long time.

When the pain-body is dense, relatively insignificant matters get exaggerated and a psychological obsession or political disagreement can turn into violence. What each of us can do to minimize the effects of this is to repeatedly choose not to participate. That means that when you feel yourself attracted to watching the 24-hour news cycle about shocking, senseless mayhem, turn off the TV and stand outside in the sunshine. Your pain-body will get a little smaller along with the rest of the world.

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