Today I am wearing camouflage clothes because I want to talk about one of my heroes, Colonel Kurtz. Marlon Brando played Colonel Kurtz, the officer who lived in the jungle in Apocalypse Now, who they thought kinda lost his marbles. He had people’s heads as decoration. They sent Martin Sheen out to kill him because they thought he had become a renegade, crazy person, but I had a slightly different view, especially in those times. I had a different view of his fanatic philosophy. In a way I am joking and in a way I am not joking, because he had a certain philosophy about pain and I learned something from that philosophy and I want to talk a little about that.
Our attitude, our perspective, our outlook on pain has brought us to a place where our lives are dedicated to eliminating it. I have a point of view that there is something valuable about pain. If there is something valuable about it and you are dedicated to eliminating it, then I need to talk about it. So I’m gonna tell you what I think about it so you have some understanding of my perspective of the value of this pain that you are dedicating your life to eliminating, and that this guy Colonel Kurtz came to understand something about.
Maybe I could start by telling a little something that I did some years ago. I have over the years gone on expeditions to some really remote places in Asia and South America where there was very little or no possibility of assistance if something went wrong, especially if something medical or physical went wrong. When I came to this town here, which was 20 years ago right now, I went on an expedition with a number of people. Most of those people had never been in circumstances like that before. A year before that, when I knew we were eventually going to head to a really remote place in the Andes, I decided it would be a good idea to develop some emergency medical skills. So I took the First Aid course. Then I took the Emergency Medical Tech course, then I got the certification, then I got the Paramedic, then I rode on the 911 truck and worked in the emergency room at the local hospital. I went through those things for a couple of years and I learned quite a bit about how to deal with emergency medical situations.
One thing I did on the 911 truck was patrol the Pass Road. The worst shift was Friday or Saturday night on the ready point to go up and down the this road because of the drunk drivers, especially the motorcyclists coming down from the Tavern. It was rare that there wouldn’t be a motorcycle down on the road somewhere. Something that you learn doing this is that no matter how badly a person is injured, no matter what the injuries are, you have an excellent chance of helping this person if he or she can talk to you, or at least is conscious enough to answer your questions by a head nod. If a person is only mildly afflicted with something, like in the first stages of insulin deprivation, it is not difficult at all to help the person. If that person is not able to communicate with you, unable to tell you what’s wrong, you have almost nothing that you can do.
Picture someone lying there unconscious or uncommunicative and all you can do is look at them. You can’t really tell what’s wrong unless there is a severe external wound, or that person has a bone fracture, or a dislocated shoulder. One of the most difficult situations is when you see a person who is unconscious but you don’t know why. They may not be that sick, but on the other hand they could get worse and worse and you would have nothing whatsoever to do. So you do these things, like you put some sugar under their tongue just in case they are experiencing insulation deprivation or are in shock. But it may be nothing of the sort. You really have nothing, unless you can ask them where it hurts, you have nothing going for you whatsoever.
That’s why I want to talk about the value of pain, because there is an analogy to our situation. We are looking to remove the obstacles to our natural gift of consciousness, our natural gift of connection to the force that created us and maintains us and some day will evaporate us. In order to remove these obstacles we have to be cognizant of what the obstacles are. Something that I learned over the years, and probably some of you have learned as well, is that the most accurate, reliable barometer of something being wrong in you is your feeling of pain, be it physical or emotional. If you feel pain, if you feel a negative reaction to something, that reflects some disharmony that exists in you. The disharmony is in you. That is an absolute formula. We are not talking about if someone put a gun to your head. We don’t have to talk about that since no one is putting a gun to your head, and you’re constantly having negative reactions that are of a lesser degree. That is a precious barometer for us.
If you call a medical office and you say, “I have aches and pains,” the doctor might tell you not to take any aspirin, no Tylenol, no Advil, just come in so he can check you out. If you don’t follow the instructions and you take the pain killers, then when you go to the doctor and he asks where it hurts, you can’t really say. What can the doctor do? The doctor is not able to help you. If you can say it hurts here and there, then that doctor has a place to start. We are really in a very similar position. If we know where it hurts, if we know what is giving us trouble, if we know where and when or how our trouble is, we know where to start because we see some disharmony. That emotional pain, that negative emotion, that bad feeling is a doorway; it allows an entryway for us to explore where that obstacle might be.
Every negative reaction in life, to some external stimulus, reflects some disharmony in us, reflects some obstacle in us. That is the law. If you can follow the path of your negative reactions, if you can follow them scientifically, impartially, accurately, precisely, then you can come to see obstacles that you have to consciousness, to freedom, to knowing God within yourself, to whatever words you use to describe feeling peace and love.
Now that presents a very big problem. You dedicate your life to eliminating pain, and you gravitate to whatever situation there is in life and whatever people there are in life that will help you eliminate those circumstances of emotional discomfort and negative reaction. If you have a negative reaction to a certain person, you will avoid that person if you possibly can. If you have a job and have a negative reaction, you will try to get transferred to another part of that job or business. Over and over again. If you study the nature of your day, you will see that your day, your life, is patterned, mapped out, by an avoidance of circumstances that cause you to react negatively.
Now think of that in terms of this analogy that we are talking about. The value of pain is that it is an indicator and a doorway. It is our most dependable indicator of where to look for obstacles. Pain equals where to look for obstacles. The elimination of pain means the elimination of the indicator of where the obstacle is. Think of yourself in terms of this formula that I am giving. This is not a theoretical concept. This is a very practical and precise concept that applies to you and to what you do. In fact, if you are sitting in an uncomfortable place or in an uncomfortable position, rather than seeing what that could indicate about you, what you can learn about some obstacle you have to something, you will alter your position. Simple as that. The pattern of your day, the map of your movements in life, both in the microcosm and macrocosm—from what city you move to, to what position you move to, to who you look at and who you don’t look at will be absolutely predetermined by that which causes you discomfort or some negative reaction in yourself.
This is a big problem. One of the first problems I have as a teacher is how to get you to hold still so that you can make use of these precious indicators, rather than trying to get rid of them. This is a fascinating subject because all your life you were taught only one thing; avoid, avoid, avoid. A healthy person who is taught this gets good at it and learns how to avoid. Avoid looking bad, avoid pain, even minor, avoid people who aren’t particularly fond of us, avoid embarrassment at all cost! Avoid doing stuff we don’t like to do. Definitely avoid WAITING! What did Siddhartha say his credentials were? He said, “I can think, I can fast, and I can wait.” Our capacity to wait is for shit. Beyond shit! Out impatience is staggering. And now I have to teach you to resist avoiding, especially small discomforts, because they are the indicators, they are the doorways to the next step on the path. They are the place to start on the road to consciousness.
This is no small endeavor—to teach a person to hold still. So we have points of view that help us do that. We have tools and perspectives that help a person become less solid, less rigid. They help us become a little lighter so we can sit still when things happen and learn to study them and see what they indicate, rather than trying to change them. But even with the methods that we have, this programming that we’ve undergone our whole lives is always there, churning beneath the surface, telling us over and over again that we can alter our situation by avoiding the things we react to with unpleasantness. That voice in us dies very, very slowly. Very, very slowly.