Themes :
Pain and Wounding

Many mystics experience a sense of pain or wounding as part of their union with the Divine, a sacred pain. For some, this can be physical and obvious to observers. This is perhaps most startlingly manifest in the great Catholic stigmatists, like St. Francis of Assisi.

This "pain" has a few levels of meaning and types of experience.

On one level, the pain can be quite literal and even physical. But it might be more accurate to refer to this as "intensity" rather than "pain." It can be as if the senses and the perceptual mind's ability to process it all gets overloaded. The mystic then experiences a searing, cleansing sort of intensity, that might be called pain.

Through profound opening, one feels everything more completely, a sort of universal empathy. There is a lot of hidden suffering in the world and, at a certain point, we feel it as our own. (Actually, we always feel it anyway, but the walls of denial fall away, and we become aware of it for the first time.) In a directly sentient way, we become aware of the interconnectedness of life. Initially, that flood of feeling is intense, even painful, but that is the pain of the heart breaking open. It becomes a sort of wound one carries, but it resolves itself to a beauty and sense of unity that manages to integrate even the most terrible suffering.

Other mystics speak of a wounding in a more metaphorical sense. The pain experienced is the perception of one's separation from God. But that pain itself is the doorway to reunion. By allowing oneself to become completely vulnerable to that pain, to surrender to it, the mystic finds the pain transformed into the blissful touch of the Beloved.

In the past, I've written --

Your most secret wound
is the doorway.


Ultimately, all of these forms of pain are the pain of the pierced ego. For one with inner balance, where the protective but limiting shell of the ego is no longer necessary, that pain points the way to freedom.

For this reason, mystics and saints describe the pain as being sweet or joyful or beautiful. It is, in fact, the beginning of bliss.

Poems with the theme of Pain and Wounding

  Abil-Kheir, Abu-Said If you do not give up the crowds
  Abil-Kheir, Abu-Said My Beloved, this torture and pain
  AE (Russell, George William) The Place of Rest
  Anandamurti (Sarkar, Prabhat Ranjan) On the path of the journey to effulgence,
  Angelou, Maya Alone
  Angelou, Maya Million Man March Poem
  Angelou, Maya Still I Rise
  Aonghus of the Divinity O Christ, protect me!
  Arabi, Muhyiddin ibn If what she says is true
  Attar, Farid ud-Din Look -- I do nothing; He performs all deeds
  Aurobindo The Guest
  Berry, Wendell Sabbaths 1998, VI
  Berry, Wendell Testament
  Blake, William Auguries of Innocence
  Brabazon, Francis Dawn is a Friend
  Broughton, James Having Come This Far
  Ching-Yuen, Loy To know Tao
  Civivakkiyar The slothful
  Crashaw, Richard The Flaming Heart or the Life of the Glorious S. Teresa
  Crashaw, Richard To the Name above every Name, the Name of Jesus
  Daniel, Arnaut The firm desire that enters
  Dickinson, Emily The hallowing of Pain
  Emre, Yunus Let's Take Yunus Emre
  Farid, Baba Sheikh I thought I was alone who suffered
  Farid, Baba Sheikh Raga Asa
  Francis of Assisi Prayer Inspired by the Our Father
  Ghalib, Mirza The drop dies in the river
  Gibran, Kahlil Pain
  Granger, Ivan M. Empty Dawn
  Granger, Ivan M. Fidelity
  Granger, Ivan M. Medusa
  Hadewijch Love Has Seven Names
  Hafiz If life remains, I shall go back to the tavern
  Hafiz (Ladinsky, Daniel) How Could a Lover Fall?
  Hanh, Thich Nhat Contemplation
  Hanh, Thich Nhat Please Call Me by My True Names
  Hirshfield, Jane The Lives of the Heart
  Islam, Nazrul Come silently like the Moon
  Jacopone da Todi (Benedetti, Jacopone) At the cross her station keeping (from Stabat Mater Dolorosa)
  Jacopone da Todi (Benedetti, Jacopone) How the Soul Through the Senses Finds God in All Creatures
  Jacopone da Todi (Benedetti, Jacopone) In losing all, the soul has risen (from Self-Annihilation and Charity Lead the Soul...)
  Jayadeva Raga Gujri
  Jayadeva When spring came, tender-limbed Radha wandered (from The Gitagovinda)
  John of the Cross I Live Yet Do Not Live in Me
  John of the Cross Without a Place and With a Place
  Kabir The light of the sun, the moon, and the stars shines bright
  Kabir The Lord is in Me
  Kalidas (Edwards, Lawrence) Take Refuge in Silence
  Kerouac, Jack The Scripture of the Golden Eternity
  Ko Un Arrows
  Kuzminsky, Irina Eyeing Death
  Llull, Ramon January (from The Book of the Lover and Beloved)
  Lowitz, Leza Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
  Maharshi, Ramana The Necklet of Nine Gems
  Maharshi, Ramana The Song of the Poppadum
  Maier, Michael Three Golden Apples from the Hesperian grove (from Atalanta Fugiens)
  McCombs, Chris Is This Your Time?
  Mechthild of Magdeburg Of the voices of the Godhead
  Meher Baba How Wonderful is the murderous mercy of God!
  Meher Baba The Beloved's Face
  Merton, Thomas A Messenger from the Horizon
  Merton, Thomas Stranger
  Merton, Thomas The Sowing of Meanings
  Milarepa Upon this earth, the land of the Victorious Ones
  Milosz, Czeslaw Forget
  Mirabai I am pale with longing for my beloved
  Mirabai No one knows my invisible life
  Mirabai The Beloved Comes Home
  Mirabai The Dagger
  Mistral, Gabriela The Rose
  Nasimi, Imadeddin I take the Merciful One's shape, the Merciful I am
  Nematollah Vali, Shah The Sea Is Our Essence
  Neruda, Pablo Gautama Christ
  Neruda, Pablo The Poet's Obligation
  Nirmala A lasting marriage
  Novalis Over I journey
  Nurbakhsh, Javad The Pain of Love
  O'Donohue, John On the death of the Beloved
  Oliver, Mary Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?
  Rahman Baba Sow Flowers
  Ramprasad (Sen, Ramprasad) O Mother, who really
  Ramprasad (Sen, Ramprasad) Who is that Syama woman
  Ramsay, Jay Sadhu
  Ravidas Upon seeing poverty
  Rilke, Rainer Maria For your sake poets sequester themselves
  Roethke, Theodore The Minimal
  Rosenstock, Gabriel why was the veil rent (from Uttering Her Name)
  Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin If a blow comes to you from Heaven
  Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin Like This
  Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin Secret Language
  Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin The Sun Must Come
  Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin We are the mirror as well as the face in it
  Sanai, Hakim The Way of the Holy Ones
  Saraha The Royal Song of Saraha (Dohakosa)
  Sarmad The universe
  Shabistari, Mahmud The Tavern Haunters
  Stagnaro, Janaka Crushing Leaves
  Szymborska, Wislawa A Contribution to Statistics
  Szymborska, Wislawa I'm Working on the World
  Tagore, Rabindranath (84) It is the pang of separation that spreads throughout the world (from Gitanjali)
  Teresa of Avila In the Hands of God
  Teresa of Avila My Beloved One is Mine
  Teresa of Avila Oh Exceeding Beauty
  Therese of Lisieux My Song for Today
  Thompson, Francis The Hound of Heaven
  Tilopa Song of the Mahamudra (Tilopa's Song to Naropa)
  Tolkien, J. R. R. EŠrendil the Mariner
  Trungpa, Chogyam A flower is always happy
  Trungpa, Chogyam Expose
  Tsogyel, Yeshe This self-sufficient black lady has shaken things up
  Tukaram All men to me are god-like Gods!
  Tulsi Sahib The Rainy Season
  Valad, Sultan The Soul That Does not Live in God is not Alive
  Vaughan, Henry The Retreate
  Vivekananda Song of the Sanyasin
  Walters, Dorothy Taken
Wine