The Difference Between Pain and Suffering – The Aussie Battler.

You can stick a sharp needle through my arm and I will experience pain. This, at some level is tolerable and bearable. But if you stick that needle through my arm and I do not want it to be done, then the pain turns to suffering and suffering is unmeasurable misery, exhausting.

All suffering is pain we don’t want. Half hearted living is seeking a life without pain. Whole hearted living, putting your heart into it 100% is the willingness to experience pain and not allow it to turn into suffering.


When I worked in Canada helping indigenous people to find their true calling, I worked with enormous suffering. Everybody I met wanted to be somewhere else. All the teaching programs the Federal Government of Canada promoted were based on the premise that the best thing they could do for people in pain, is to help them get out of it. In doing so, they used workshops by Deepak on tape and many other half truth teachers. They actually turned pain into suffering, which is the trigger for suicide. The very thing they were trying to prevent.

I function in violent opposition to the statement “be in the now.” or its cousin “be in the moment.” Being, in any form, brings with it an assumption of painlessness. Being still, being happy, being in meditation. An automatic implication that, in the instant of time the only thing that matters is you. This is important if we are suffering. If we are suffering and we be in the moment, the suffering turns back to pain. And pain can be resolved. But if we be in the now, and we are not suffering, we make others suffer which is, in itself, a form of suffering because we are all connected.

Anyway, the story is that I was often asked to come to the bedside of people who were passing because they had spent a whole life suffering and their kin wanted them to see that they were loved, and accept that they were loveable before they passed. So I met many people who were dying because, and as a result of, guilt, remorse, shame, fear and anger.In other words from pain they’d inflicted on (self) or others and now wished they hadn’t. Call this suffering.

If I arrived 48 hours before they passed they would not release the suffering. They were carrying it with such a tenacity, hoping that their suffering would keep them from death. Hoping that, by being remorseful, guilty, self loathing, ashamed, that somehow either the pearly gates would open and let them in or that somehow, they’d be forgiven and their suffering would be released and they wouldn’t pass to death.

I always knew that when they were within 24 hours of passing from their body, they would acknowledge the fruitlessness of this suffering and start releasing themselves to love. In this journey, their heart would open fully to themselves, to those they had hated a lifetime and to those who in their perception, they had harmed. In the last 24 hours of their life they would open their heart and love again.

What a waste!

What a terrible terrible waste. To wait until the doors of life were closing in order to open their heart to wholehearted being. To wait until nothing could be done except slide from the real to the virtual world. They had lived 50 – 60 years winning contracts, building bridges, making speeches, attending weddings, making babies, caring for others and yet, they did it carrying suffering, spreading suffering, contaminating the cakes they made for birthdays with suffering, unnecessarily. Proven unnecessarily – by the fact that, when the ego was leaving and the mind was softening, their heart wanted to open before their life wanted to close.

Pain versus Suffering

Over 2,000 years ago a man, one of thousands, was pinned to a cross and left to die. The pain of that experience, if it is inflicted as we are told, would be excruciating. And yet, that person said “I want it” – I do it for you. I welcome this pain. I have a reason to have pain.

Today, you will be sad, happy, angry, poor, wealthy, confused, challenged, criticised, supported, promoted, hurt, abused, and complimented. Some of it is painful, some of it isn’t. If you head in the direction of what is not painful you will become someone you were never meant to be, like a donkey following a carrot on a stick. You will end up somewhere else and the pain will still be there. To follow what makes you happy is ignorance, but ignorance in itself is a teacher.

To wish yourself not to experience pain, prohibits you from learning. If pain becomes a friend, in the form of overwhelm, discomfort, anxiety, hurt, rejection, physical break, emotional breaking, then you have the universe and nature (some say god) as a teacher. You will learn, and you will be happy for the pain because you want to learn. The more the pain, the worse the student. If I whisper a learning in your ear and you hear it, then the move for you is subtle. If I shout in your ear, then the sound will hurt, then the move is grand.

Pain is wanting the whisper – suffering is ear plugs.

Becoming a Student

A student never suffers. A student wants pain. Pain is teaching. We evolve in the universe, our career, our marriage, our family, our health at the border of support and challenge. A person who wants support and no challenge is a teacher who has stopped learning. Then, for this person, all pain is unwelcome and they suffer excruciatingly.

The role of a teacher is to turn pain into learning. All pain is learning. The guru turns the dark into light. The dark is the pain, it exists in space and it exists in life. Dark is the pain, the unknown truth that drives us into the thistles, the rose thorn on the stem of a rose.

This is why having a guru who takes your pain, and finds the teaching so you can become a better more authentic version of yourself by evolving up, through and not away from life.

If you have a job and you are stressed, this pain is telling you to go for the next higher job but first, learn to master and manage the role you have. Nature never asks or invites you to run from pain or shrink from it. It asks you to master the situation, reconstruct the structure and move, to the other side, up and bigger, better and larger, through it. Choose your teacher carefully. If they see their role as pain relief, they will, as a result make you suffer. And there is no greater misery on earth.


When we want to be where we are, we want to be wherever we are, and in doing so, we cannot suffer. We can only eliminate suffering by eliminating the desire to run from pain. To want pain, is to want teaching. To be a student of life. The only way to achieve any peace of mind, is to want to be in pain when it happens. We do not want pain, but we evolve at the border of pain and pleasure. To want pleasure is to experience suffering because pain will not be a friend.

When pain happens, in the form of anxiety, stress, exhaustion, heart ache, confusion, doubt, it triggers fight flight. So, this primal instinct can over ride conscious, good hearted living and turn us into a suffering mess. Instead, observe pain as a teacher, observe pain as a friend, observe it and defeat the primal instinct to run and instead, ask a teacher, your guru, to show you how to reorganise, re distribute, re manage the process so instead of wanting to do less of it, do more.

The key is to get past the idea that you are messed up, or that something about you is sick mentally or physically just because you are stressed or in pain. What it means, universally, when you are in anxiety, stress, physical or emotional pain is that you are running an old movie, an old script about priorities, toughing it out, grinding through it, instead of looking for smarter ways to do more in less time.

Do not ask those who manage you to back away. They are born to extract your blood and bone for profit even if they claim it is for your benefit, they lie. Your boss wants less to do and more reward, so they will dump more on you and take the credit. They will also blame you if it messes up. Do not be deluded by the rhetoric of “we have your best interest at heart” – it is not true, the system would fail, people would not function if it were different.

So, your call is continual re-design of your way of being, not your being. Don’t mess with your mind. Look at how you do what you do. Ask yourself what is important what is not. Ask how you can save time worrying. Ask how you can get more done in less time. Ask how you can sleep deeper and longer. Ask how you can manage your mind so there is less emotion and more production. This is not cold, or mysterious – it is simply evolving and not accusing yourself of being right, good, bad or wrong. Change the system. Then change your mind.

99% of all human problems come from wanting to change a person who doesn’t need changing but whose environment, process, filing system, daily organisation and priorities are messed up. If you say to me, “I want to be good at my job” then 15 minutes of yoga is perfect, not two hours. (unless you are a dancer or athlete). Ask simple questions.

  1. What are my priorities?
  2. How can I do more of that?
  3. What are my lower priorities?
  4. How can I do those low priorities so they don’t mess up and in fact support my high priorities.
  5. How can I act like I want to achieve?
  6. How can I do more of those things that I currently do and do it easy?


There is nothing so draining as emotion. I can climb the Himalayas twice with the energy I spend in a day of downer. Emotions are not to be messed with.

The best way to handle emotion is on paper.

We try to think things through in our head and one emotion creates another.

Thinking is emotion. So thinking can’t fix emotion. Thinking causes emotion. You can’t think your way out of an emotion. Paper is the solution.

Paper, four columns: good news, bad news, the bad news about the good news and the good news about the bad news. On Paper. It sounds like a mess in your head, but this is how your calm your mind and open your heart.

If you are exhausted from work, or kids or whatever, and need a break, you are in emotion. The solution is:

want to be where you are

stop multi tasking and give yourself wholeheartedly to your priorities

Don’t try to change people but instead find your reflection in them and what they do

Find the benefit to things that piss you off.

Raise the bar and put a smile on your dial… my three favourite words Balanced, centred, calm (Balanced mind, Centred Body, Calm your Nerves)

Finally, no blame… blame blocks resolution. If you caused your stress you can fix it. If you blame something or someone, you can’t change them, so you can’t fix it. Blame gives power to the thing it blames. So take your power back and say “my stress is not your stress” and “your stress is not my stress.”

Live, love, life – Wholehearted ..


Chris Walker

Opening Hearts – Changing the world one heart at a time.

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