Springingtiger's Blog


Dancing on Glass

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I was at the Doctor’s surgery for a blood test. The nurse said to me, “Are you okay with this?”

To which I replied, “I took part as a volunteer in a clinical trial recently so I’m used to it, but I don’t like injections.”

She looked at my arm and said, “It’s funny how many people who have tattoos don’t like injections.”

“The funny thing is that I don’t really feel them.”

“Did the tattoo hurt?”

“No. It’s not the pain, it’s the thought of needles I don’t like. I don’t even usually have an injection when I have fillings.”

“Oh, I couldn’t do that!” She said.

It is strange how things that don’t worry one person can really disturb another and how different are our reactions to physical sensations. Pain is very much on my mind of late, literally as I am using mindfulness to manage mine.

Yesterday I was considering how different can be peoples tastes in films, music and the arts. There are many films I won’t watch because I don’t feel they will contribute anything of value to me. I don’t need to watch slasher horror, I find enough evidence of human depravity in the newspapers. I do use films, television, books and music to manipulate my mood quite systematically. I have a stock of films that can lift my mood and they are not all comedies although the Marx Brothers do feature strongly among them. Surprisingly some are war films, not because I approve of war, but I like to see human virtues triumphing under impossible circumstances and, for all its horror and evil, war often has people reach heights of courage and altruism to which they would ordinarily not think to aspire.

I do watch films with violence in them, purposeful violence. I don’t approve of violence, however I accept it as a reality of life and sometimes unavoidable. It may even be justifiable under certain circumstances. The sad thing is just how high a proportion of films and television depend on violent story lines. I try to balance my viewing because I am aware that some films do drag down my mood and stimulate unwanted emotions. I don’t know whether a diet of horrific violence whether in films or video games can be blamed for aberrant behaviour, I like to think people have the ability to discriminate between good and evil, fantasy and reality. I suspect that, like life, our viewing and reading probably benefits from variety. The broader our experiences, and our reading and viewing, the more balanced we are likely, but not inevitably, to be.

Physical pain can be very unpleasant. Psychological pain perhaps even more so. Just as we seek nourishing and good food and a healthy body, I think we should nourish our psyches with stimuli that on balance cause us to grow and expand our horizons. That means enough negativity to enable our understanding, but countered with considerably more positives to encourage us to grow into our full potential. Enough pain to allow us to appreciate pleasure and to stimulate our awareness, but not enough to demoralise our spirits and dampen our enjoyment of life. There is a sweet point of balance and to retain it we need to constantly adjust our sensory input and thinking. As in riding a bicycle or walking a tightrope the balance is found in movement and in recognising the input we need for optimum well-being. It is a dance of mental stimulation, education, diet, exercise; the trick lies in being aware of our changing needs just as a dancer listens for changes in tempo. As long as we are alive we have sensations, reactions, thoughts and beliefs. The dance only ends when we do…if it ever ends.

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