Eckhard Tolle, author of Power of Now, writes a lot about the pain-body and the importance of dissolving it. The pain–body is Tolle’s term for all the accumulated emotional pain that occupies our minds and bodies. He considers the pain-body to be a living entity that insures its own survival by both creating and attracting familiar situations that “resonate with pain patterns from the past.” Apparently, there is hardly a creature on earth who manages to leave home without one.
Dissolving the pain-body is really not a Jewish idea. In fact, it is arguably an anti-Jewish idea: Our national identity is forged in pain patterns from the past and we have year-round, institutionalized rituals for reliving them. We are instructed to see ourselves as though we too were slaves in Egypt, to feel our own flesh slaughtered by the Amalek and other brutal assailants. At every wedding we smash a glass to remember the temple’s destruction; if we forget sacked Jerusalem, our right hands must falter. Our present is defined by our past. Nothing ever happened to our ancestors that did not happen to us. (Does this explain why our national tragedies occur and reoccur? I would never dare-say but Tolle would have to subscribe.) I do know that memory and suffering are so bound up with our identity that dissolution of the collective pain-body does not appear on most Jewish agendas.
But Tolle (who ardently urges us to live only in The Now) speaks convincingly of both a personal pain body and the collective one –particularly among Native Americans, Jews, Blacks and, lo and behold – women. So according to Tolle, we Jewish women have a double dose of pain-body, one as women and one as Jews. He makes me consider the consequences of carrying around all that past history.
When he goes on to say that women are most conscious of “the infinite sacred vista which lies beyond the pain-body,” I wonder what we women might experience if we could indeed dissolve the pain entity and move on. Is this anything like Rumi’s famous field that lies beyond old tired concepts? Is this someplace we could meet and talk? Is this a vista from wish we could invigorate the collective Jewish conversation?