Balancing Pleasure and Pain in Living a Conscious Life

Do you love living a conscious life?

A willing question maybe, but many fake their way through the answer to this question.

Religions, philosophies, and doctrines have all challenged us to embrace conscious life as energetic and engaged spirits in the hopes that we may live a happier life. Conscious life, however, is full of unhappiness, discomfort and suffering. Therefore, if we seek to fully embrace a conscious life, the embracing of negativity is mandatory for complete engagement. This reminds me of the Zen quote about fight the opposing Samurai enemy; “One must hug the enemy so that he can’t draw his sword.”

conscious life

Your conscious life challenges you to deal with both pleasure, and pain.

As we can see, we must embrace our panics and discomforts in equal proportion to our pleasures and joyous experiences in order to completely embrace a conscious life. Engagement in holistic embruing of the dual ying-yang that life is constructed allows for us to not be chained be either too much pleasure or too much paint.


Just as sometimes we seek pain, pleasure is available for us to experience essence of conscious life. Each experience we deem as a “joyous” is one that causes a feeling in either one or more of the three following places:

1. Our Body
2. Our Mind
3. Our Spirit

Sometimes we experience happiness and pleasure in all three areas. These experiences we call “peak” or even “spiritual” experiences. In these situations we forget ourselves and the problems that currently plague our lives. Therefore, is this what a happy occasion is constructed of?

Is it simply forgetting ourselves and our problems?

This is, after all, why some turn to substances in an attempt to alter their state. Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, or even a workout — we look to change our state in some for or fashion in an attempt to experience something other than our “mundane, every day” life experience. Let me make a distinction: There is nothing innately wrong or detrimental with this pursuit. However, it’s when we become attached to these experiences or the creation of them is when suffering and pain can ensue.


To answer your question; yes, we seek pain.

conscious life

The very essence of a conscious life is in the experiencing of both pain and pleasure.

Most of the time this activity is subconscious and habitual. Just as we have positive habits, we also have negative as well. Typically, the seeking out of pain is another cry to feel conscious life in some way. For example, we get drunk to forget ourselves, knowing full well that the pain that we causing on our body is worth the ends of feeling good in the moment. However, is that really the “ends”?

The ends that are caused by the means are when the transaction if complete. Meaning, the hangover, which is a biological response to the alcohol dehydrating our brain, is the “ends” to which our means of access to alcohol produced. Interestingly, we won’t save 10% of our money (pain) in order to create the ends of having a cushion of money in the bank later (pleasure). Instead, we find ways to experience pleasure first, even if it means that we will cause damage later — which we categorize as a way to feel conscious life more.

Contrastively, we find that if we locate the discipline within ourselves to experience pain first (like saving) , there are not only rewards to garnish later but, no real damage is had. Seeking the experience of pain can work to our benefit if we focus on selecting the hard pain first to then benefit the rewards that come as a result later.

The very essence of living a conscious life is in the experiencing of both pain and pleasure. But as we’ve seen, the way in which we currently pursue each is flipped. We seek pleasure to avoid the pain of our daily lives and, we seek pain as a justification for the pleasure. In order for us to truly embrace a conscious life, we must take the short to pain for future gain. We engage the pain now with the knowledge that rewards are on their way.

If you take a moment and think, it seems that every time we use our internal disciplinary mechanisms to embrace a perceived momentary pain there is a reward of something greater than what we would have experienced if we were to have taken the momentary pleasure.

I encourage you to engage the pain so that you may find the benefits that wait for you. I assure you that the pain that you endure now as a result of current self-disciplinary restraint will out-weigh the rewards that are available for you. This, is why living a conscious life is important. So that we may fully embrace the rewards that each moment provides.

-Thomas McGregor


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