This week the U.S. Open tennis tournament started. Tennis is one of my favorite sports, and I've thoroughly enjoyed playing and watching the game in recent years. So, in this blog, I want to use tennis as a metaphorical lens to look at the important topics of pain, pleasure, and transcendence.
What is pain? Pain is a kind of sensation. Pain is a sensory experience in which internal or external events are interpreted by the mind as being contrary to the well-being and desired trajectory of an individual, or group of individuals. In tennis, pain comes in different forms. For instance, one time I sprained my ankle while playing tennis, and that sensation was physically painful, but there was also emotional pain due to the mental disappointment of having to stop playing for an extended period of time.
One of the most tragic events in tennis history occurred when the champion Monica Seles was stabbed in the back while sitting on a break. That horrible act was obviously full of pain, not only for the victim, but for those that adored and supported her career. Fortunately, she was able to recover her health and even come back to win more championships. Surely, there was great pleasure in her return to the beloved game.
So, what is pleasure? Pleasure is also a kind of sensation, but one that is received with satisfaction and approval in regards to maintaining and improving our homeostatic condition. Pleasure is affiliated with happiness, enlightenment, and pure bliss consciousness, which is what we are cultivating with AYP. In tennis, there are many shades of pleasure, including the sustained endorphin buzz that arises when hitting the ball back and forth with an opponent or partner. Winning a hard-fought match can be full of elation, euphoria, and fulfillment, which are pleasurable qualities.
Finally, we have transcendence, which is a more abstract term. Transcendence comes from a Latin word meaning "to climb across, to climb beyond". When we transcend something, we have traveled across a distance and arrived at a place beyond the original limits of our journey.
Roger Federer, often considered the greatest tennis player of all time, exemplifies transcendence, on and off the court. He displays compassion and divine love to the people he comes across, and that state of being is beyond the dynamic of winning and losing. The sublime calm he exudes is evident in the fluidity of his movement, and in the way he carries himself. He transcends the boundaries of competition, even while excelling within them.
In AYP for Recovery, we are transcending the narrowness of identification as an alcoholic or addict. We are going beyond the pain inflicted from hurtful tendencies and a damaged past. First, we replace the hurtful tendencies with superior habits like Deep Meditation, then we realize and directly perceive that we are, in fact, the blissful awareness that underlies all events, even the painful ones.
Pain and pleasure are supreme teachers in this life, and transcendence is the reward of learning (and un-learning) from that interplay. Even if we never win any grand trophies, we can still achieve greatness by following the spiral of peace and joy gained from daily practices, thereby living as embodied masters in this incarnation.