Beyond the Game of Pleasure and Pain | Rohini Ross
Beyond the Game of Pleasure and Pain

Beyond the Game of Pleasure and Pain

One of the things I have been really enjoying in my work recently whether it be in supervision sessions with coaches, working with clients, or facilitating the Rewilding Experience, is helping people to see the innate wisdom that is unfolding right before their eyes. It reminds me of how Syd Banks said you are enlightened, you just don’t know it. Or of the Sri Ramana Maharishi quote:


Realisation is nothing to be gained afresh; it is already there. All that is necessary is to get rid of the thought ‘I have not realised.


We can be so wedded to our ideas of how things should be and justified in our positions of what is right and wrong that we don’t see it is the judgment that creates suffering and the experience of feeling separate from our true nature. This misunderstanding clouds our ability to experience the natural wisdom that is present in the moment.


We have our preferences of how we should be or what circumstances we want in our lives and become so attached to manifesting our preferences that when things don’t line up we become reactive. We might get upset or we might judge ourselves. This could be wishing someone in our life were different. It might be wanting more money, better health, an improved relationship. We focus on what we want and our preferences, and we can only see what is wrong and what needs to be improved. The attitude of optimization takes over. Even with a good life, it becomes how can this life be better? How can my experience be improved? What can I do to have a better experience? 


The challenge is that experience is naturally going to come in all different forms. No matter what our life circumstances, experience is going to change. It can be helpful to see that experience doesn’t come from circumstance as a way to become less attached to needing certain circumstances to feel better, and it is even more liberating to not be attached to a specific experience whatsoever. The river of experience is going to flow through us. Feelings are going to come and go. Variations of pleasure and pain are the tapestry for the human experience. Any attempt to try and get more pleasure and lest pain ultimately creates more suffering. 


The obvious attempt to create more pleasure by having more money and more wealth is seen more and more as a bottomless pit that can never be filled. The same with I’ll be happy when I weigh a certain amount or achieve another goal. These external pursuits to chase happiness are being seen more and more for the fool’s errand that they are. But there are also sneakier ways that a better experience is being sought. By renouncing external pursuits, by being more spiritual, by getting quieter, these can look like they are more enlightened behaviors, but if the intent is to seek a better experience they are based in the same misunderstanding just taking a different form. 


Trying to manage experience no matter what way you try to manage it is always going to be some form of trying to have more pleasure and less pain. What the pursuit misses is the opportunity to accept the natural flow of pleasure and pain as part of the human condition and open to a freedom that is not about seeking more good experiences in order to be okay. It is about not identifying with experience itself. Yes, of course, we are going to have experience, but just because we have it doesn’t mean we have to identify with it. We can be more accepting and open to whatever our experience might be in the moment and in that openness we also get a feel for who we are beyond our sensory experience. 


It is in the seeing beyond our human senses that the deeper wisdom reveals itself. When we move beyond our personal preferences and can appreciate the impersonal unfolding of what is, it is easier to see the essence at play in each person and situation. This has been a profound experience for me when I see it.


My daughter can be angry with me and reactive, and I can see beyond the behavior to the essence and the intelligence behind it. A client might be struggling and feeling victimized in their situation. I can see that he or she is doing the best they can based on their understanding. When the experience itself is no longer of interest to me, it opens up a whole new vantage point. If I am not focused on my experience of upset as something that is wrong and needs to be fixed, if pain or pleasure are just neutral experiences that do not need to be resisted or sought after, it is like a movie shot that zooms out. There is the scene, but there is space beyond the scene. The person is experienced within the impersonal. 


As long as I am only identifying with the personal the only option is to try and create a better personal experience. As soon as I zoom out and experience the space beyond the personal, there is nothing to fix or improve. There is simply what is unfolding. It is in the impersonal space that the wellbeing, peace, and contentment lies. It is always there. I just don’t experience it when I am zoomed in. And I do experience it when I am zoomed out no matter what is going on on the personal level.


And if I try to make a technique out of this and zoom out so I can have a better experience, I just get more zoomed in and the space disappears. We cannot will this and co-opt it for our pleasure-seeking bidding. 


But we can remember that we are not our experience. We have it, but it is not all of who we are. It is in the remembering that we naturally zoom out and from that vantage point we see the perfection of the natural unfolding of what is. We see the psychological innocence of ourselves and those around us. We see that nothing can be separated from the intelligence behind life. We see that personal control is an idea that creates suffering, and we relax into the river of unfolding as it is and act on what occurs to us to do within the unfolding. It is simple and ordinary. It includes pleasure and pain, but also much more than that. 


We will never win when all we are playing is the pleasure-pain game, but we have already won when we see the game for what it is and can then enjoy playing with all of the experiences it includes.


Rohini Ross is passionate about helping people wake up to their full potential. She is a transformative coach, leadership consultant, a regular blogger for Thrive Global, and author of the short-read Marriage (The Soul-Centered Series Book 1) available on Amazon. You can get her free eBook Relationships here. Rohini has an international coaching and consulting practice based in Los Angeles helping individuals, couples, and professionals embrace all of who they are so they can experience greater levels of well-being, resiliency, and success. She is also the founder of The Soul-Centered Series: Psychology, Spirituality, and the Teachings of Sydney Banks. You can follow Rohini on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and watch her Vlogs with her husband. To learn more about her work go to her website,

1 Comment

  • Hilda Rhodes

    18.05.2020 at 16:12 Reply

    Hi Rohini
    I meant to post last week but don’t think I did. I love your writing and find it so helpful. Letting go of all the “shoulds” has suddenly become more meaningful for me as has the “shattering” of my Ego. Love Hilda x

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