Pleasure is Pain. Seeing is Release.
Updated: Sep 28, 2020
The statement 'Pleasure is Pain' is not a call to deny pleasure. It contains no moral judgement - no connection to the idea of 'sin' or 'guilty pleasure'.
It is simply a statement of the way things are. That on one level, within every urge to pursue a pleasurable experience is an unconscious attempt to escape some aspect of our current experience. And on another, every time we engineer an experience of pleasure, we set ourselves up for a future fall.
The same is true whether we are talking of simple pleasures (eg: coffee, chocolate, yoga, sex), more elaborate ones (eg: jumping from an aeroplane, building a career, entering a relationship, starting a family) or more ethereal ones (eg: the bliss of meditative absorption).
Like the 'yin and yang' symbol, where the black swirl contains a white dot, and the white swirl contains the black, each side of every duality contains the seed of the other.
Pleasure-seeking (and pain-aversion) is the modus operandi of the central nervous system. Not seeing this, we tend to believe that the playing out of these patterns is an expression of some kind of personal freedom-of-choice: the belief that 'I' am in control. Living this way may feel empowering at times, but it is also quite exhausting. A perpetual roller-coaster ride.
But seeing this clearly - seeing that pleasure is pain - and that pain is pleasure - we have an opportunity to release ourselves from the tendency to get caught up in the unceasing ebb and flow of life.
By developing the ability to directly perceive the biochemical processes underpinning our conditioned behaviour, we begin to dis-identify with them. Our awareness becomes more spacious - less focused on the 'goal' of pleasure and more able to remain with the full cycle of experience. We start to see the Tao beyond the Yin and the Yang.
Perhaps the real surprise here is that by developing this wisdom of 'the way things are' the pleasure is not diminished at all. In fact, the opposite is true. When we cease to identify with the habitual forces that drive our behaviour, we begin to relate to life with a freshness and ease that allows both the 'pleasurable' and 'painful' to be transformed into the Joy of Release.