Pain has many faces. But like so many things that we talk about in Universal Man, it can be one of life’s greatest teachers. Let’s try to understand pain and some of its faces.

The masochist is the one who just loves pain almost as an end in itself. That is not the approach we want to take here. Pain, in itself, has no intrinsic value. Instead it is an indicator that you are at a doorway to growing your own self.

In particular situations, we come to a crossroads and are required to make a choice. Now almost without exception that choice will lead to some sort of pain. There will be a physical pain, there’ll be emotional pain, psychological – in growth there will always be some sort of cost.

But it’s not just as simple as no pain, no gain.

Understanding Pain – Types of pain

It is important to understand pain if we are to unmask it’s wisdom. We live in this world now where pain avoidance is the norm. People are seeking the instant fix to address any discomfort. We don’t want to have any form of discomfort. We’ve got Panadol, Nurofen. It’s just amazing what we’ve become addicted to. And any level of discomfort, any level of unease or pain is to be avoided. Sadly in schools these days we are encountering more and more what we call the age of entitlement; too many young people feel that they are entitled to growth or achievement without the pain.

Now there are different types of pain. There’s physical pain around fitness, growing fitness, injury, ill health. The physical sense that your body is either growing to get better or is just unwell and is seeking health. Then there’s a physical pain that comes from the unconscious mind when there’s an incongruence in yourself. And this is your feelings about what is happening in the world, what is happening right now, and what could happen, what you’re hallucinating might actually end up happening in your life. And all these things manifest themselves in proper, physical, felt pain.

You might be feeling pain in your neck. Maybe you’re tense in your shoulders. And where does that come from? While it’s now manifested as a purely physical thing, where it’s come from potentially is stress, or anxiety, or worry about something. And so it ends up being like a psychosomatic condition. Your thinking is affecting you physically and your physical self is affecting you psychologically; it can go both ways.

The role of pain – a signpost

It is important to understand the role that pain plays because it can be such a negative. It can engulf you if you let it get out of control, and it can trap you and hold you back. If you let it go, and go, and go again … if you don’t deal with it, it grows. It doesn’t stay still. It gets worse over time because if it’s something that’s emotional that’s wrong, and you don’t deal with it, the emotion eats away at you and grows as a complex over time. Or if it’s physical, you just get more and more injured, and more and more unhealthy.

So many people get trapped in that kind of a cycle. It’s almost a negative cycle. They see pain as being something that they want to avoid. And the more they avoid it, the more they’re in pain, the more they reach for pills, or whatever their form of avoidance is – they end up never facing the pain, never learning from it and becoming a better person because of it.

Pain avoidance can lead to all sorts of addiction. One of the main causes that leads people to constant addiction is the pain that they haven’t resolved within them, be it physical or emotional. But the way to think about pain is that it’s the pathway to growth. It’s your compass, so to speak. If you’re getting a particular pain you can say, “Well, that’s the thing that’s going to make me stronger, fitter, healthier. More emotionally connected. More congruent as an individual.” That’s the key. When you see pain, it’s not an negative. It’s a signpost.

It’s a signpost, and the invitation is to make it your friend. If it’s physical, you get your muscle systems, you stretch them, work them – there’s pain, when you befriend is you’re going to grow in a physical sense. So you are all the time listening, aware, choosing. If you go to the gym, and maybe you’re doing some push ups, and you don’t do enough, maybe you do 10 pushups but are capable of so much more. You don’t get any fitter. No. You just maintain the status quo. So the pain will only come when you get past your personal best or what you’re capable of. And that will help you grow, or get fitter, or even stay fit in the moment.

Pain is unique to every particular person. Within each sphere of pain; physical, emotional, psychological – what is painful for one may not be for another – what stretches one may not stretch another. The kind of things which challenge us, and stretch us, are going to change from one person to the next.

A lot of people have no interest in physical fitness. Greg loves fitness and it has been a part of his life since day one. So for those who are not into physical fitness where the pain and discomfort of that has no interest for them – that is okay as long as you’re comfortable with that. So some pains are acceptable to avoid if the consequences aren’t dire for you and it is not where you are called to grow. But make sure there is someplace within your life you are being stretched, challenged, etc. And that’s the space where you’re going to grow. And the actual effect of it – whatever that it is for you – will be where your confidence will grow. For some it will be your physical confidence, others your emotional confidence because you’ve faced this pain, you’ve worked your way through it. When you have worked through pain, faced it and learnt from it there is a calmness within you.

Pain faced

Pain faced leads to greater achievement. Pain engaged leads to results like achieving goals, getting stuff done at work, whatever it is you’re trying to do, whatever you aspire to right now. If you’re not experiencing some pain on the journey, then you’re not likely getting much of a result – certainly not as much as you could. Any journey worthwhile having, there’s going to be some headwinds. There’s going to be some pain, whether it’s physical, or emotional, or relational. There’ll be some sort of challenge there. Young people in today’s society can learn so much from this. As mentioned earlier there’s a big question about that sense of entitlement. Now when we can challenge young people with facing pain, and working hard, there is a resilience there. They can bounce back more. Their bounce back comes faster, and they bounce back stronger.

Some of that entitlement comes from the world they grew up in. As soon as you show young people the path through maybe a bit of pain, they accept that and understand it quite quickly. And then they can rise above their old belief systems about entitlement.
Pain faced leads to greater self discipline. When you embrace pain you grow in confidence, you are calm and that ability to say no to yourself leads to a deeper you. That ability when the alarm goes at 5:00, and you jump out of bed. And the first time it’s hard, and the second time it’s hard, the third time is hard, but after a while you just get into a zone. And the alarm goes, and you’re gone. So that ability to say no to what your body wants in the moment – because you’ve got a goal. Discipline.

How do we deal with pain?

Let’s talk about how you deal with pain. We understand what it is. We’re going to break this up into two components. One, how do you deal with just physical and understood emotional pain like stress and anxiety. And you know what’s causing it. And the other is when you’re getting pain, and you don’t know what the source is. You don’t know if it’s physical, or emotional. But something is not right.

The first one is around this physical and understood emotional pain. And the very first thing … so this might be something you’re stressed or worried about. It might be a sore knee, or an ankle, or something that’s wrong with you. Even you’re just ill. The first thing is to reframe it, and understand that the way forward is to know that the pain is the path. The obstacle is the way. And if you can overcome that, accept it, and understand it, and grow, you will actually grow as an individual. And when you can understand what the source of the pain is, okay. If I’ve got too many jobs on my case at the moment, and I’m rushing here, here, here, and I’m getting headaches, I’m tense, okay. Stop. Reflect, okay. I can work out why. What is going on?

Most of the time the signals you get in that space are very obvious. You’ve been working too hard, all of a sudden you’ve got a flu. And that’s partly physical because you’ve run yourself down. At the end you should have fought internal systems. But maybe it’s also completely psychosomatic. You’re body’s just saying, “Enough is enough.”

It could be as simple as you’re listening to your own body. And you know if you worked eight nights in a row, whatever the thing is, your body inside’s going, “Hey. Stop. Stop. Stop.” How to listen to that pain, your tiredness.

Another element of this is grit. The whole concept of grit – Greg talked to one of the great Wallabies of all time, Nathan Sharpe and he said he learned to love and enjoy the hard stuff, the grit. The more you learn to love the stuff away from the spotlight, actually the better you are later anyway. So reframe the pain and while not loving it as an end in itself – love it’s challenge and it’s path. It is not masochism if you are growing to be a better you because of pain embraced and faced!

Over the last so Christmas break, Pricey did the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand. And it’s a 19.7km hike in a single day. But it’s up very high, and the day he did it was baking hot. So it was painful. It was uphill and hard going. But that grit, that hard yakka paid off – at the end of the day while tired, exhausted – he felt great. The beer at the end of that day at the local pub was just awesome.

The other thing about the physical and emotional pain, there’s another element to this which is just having some maintenance. So regularly meditating, staying fit, fasting, not eating for 18 or 24 hours once or twice a week, is a process of understanding, and dealing, and pushing through pain. All those things make you better at it. It’s like you get pain fit, so to speak. And that makes you stronger mentally, physically, emotionally. And you really grow as an individual. We’ve said it over and over again, all of these elements are actually linked. So when you’re doing all that, when you are getting into a rhythm of whether it be meditation, a rhythm of fitness, a rhythm of eating in a really good way, that rhythm becomes a beautiful psychosomatic thing.

We talk about mental strength! Greg recalls the first time he did a marathon – he thought it was a physical mountain to climb. But then he found out it wasn’t physical – it was mental. You learn mental toughness when you’re running the last five kilometres of your first marathon. And if you can stay strong at that moment, when all the voices in your head are telling you to stop, that’s when you start to learn what you’re made of. And as a result of what should have been a purely physical endeavour, he was mentally, emotionally, and physically stronger at the end of it.

As we keep on saying this new strength flows over into other things. You could be working on all this, and you’re in a conflict situation. And a year or two prior, you would have come out of that stressed, and uptight, and exhausted. Now you’re in a conflict situation, you are present to them, to the other and even though it is painful you come out of it feeling free. You’ve done your work.

The second element is that every now and then in life, you’re going to have situations where you’re having pain. You can’t work it out. No treatment, nothing seems to work. You just can’t seem to understand it. And this is where we you might have a deeper incongruence. Something isn’t right within you, and your unconscious mind is demonstrating physically that it’s unhappy. But sometimes it’s not entirely clear. And we want to tell a story to demonstrate this.

One time Greg had a guy who was working on his team when he used to work in the corporate world. Greg was coaching him to run his first ever marathon. It was about four weeks to marathon day and he started to get a really bad shoulder pain in his left shoulder. As the next week or two went on it got worse, and worse, and worse. He went and saw the top physic at a renowned university but it just didn’t get any better.

Over a period of two weeks, it got worse, and worse. And Greg said to him, “Hey, listen mate. Can we just spend five minutes? Let me see if we can find out if there’s something else at play here that your body is trying to tell you.” So let me rephrase that, “Is there something that your unconscious mind is trying to tell you.” Now we were able to almost thank the pain so to speak, and talk directly to the pain source. And this sounds a bit weird and a bit wacko, but hear me out.

What he was able to identify was that there was a positive intention for this pain. It was not purely physical, even though there was nothing about it that seemed emotional or psychological, there was. And he was able to identify the positive intention. And the positive intention was recovery. What was going on in the rest of his life was he was working long hours. He was training a lot, he’d left all of his training to the end. He was a really, really busy guy. And there was no recovery. So what ended up happening was there was therefore an incongruence within his psychology. And it said, “Enough is enough. You’re not showing me the end here. I’m going to slow you down. What I’m going to do is give you a bit of a sore shoulder and that will stop you.”
He didn’t see that. It wasn’t immediately apparent in any way, shape, or form. We were able to ask a bit of a question of his unconscious mind. We basically said, “Are there any conditions under which he can do something so the pain goes away?” And the message on the inside he immediately had when we asked this question was, “Book some annual leave.” Luckily we were in the office, and Greg was his boss. So Greg said, “Mate, book the leave right now, and go and book the hotel as well. Make it happen. Book it for the day after,” I think the marathon was on a Saturday, “book it for Sunday, of the following Sunday, and get away.

He booked that, and two days later there was no pain. He didn’t see another physio. So sometimes in life there’s a internal incongruence going on. And the signal that comes from the unconscious mind is purely physical, and it can be hard to understand.

The path in that situation is to listen. To stop. And if it’s just a physical sitting, and listening, and meditation session. Sitting with a friend. And out of that the wisdom, whatever the body’s trying to say to you, will come up. And it will come out of the left field. If you get really stuck on this, go and see someone who maybe has a hypnotherapy background or a psychological background in dealing with this. If you’ve got something that’s seems maybe there might be something more to it, then do that. What this is about is an incongruence. So that’s a really important point around when you don’t know the source of a major pain issue. (NOTE : Remember, sometimes you can chase a non-physical cause when there isn’t one. It is actually a physical problem you just haven’t found the root cause yet. The best thing in all cases is to seek professional help – psychological or medical)

Ultimately Pain is The Doorway to Growth

Ultimately pain is an energy. And sometimes we’ve just got to kind of channel it. So we’re hearing it, we’re listening to it, and we just gently channel it into a really positive outcome. In the end pain can make you stronger. But only if you grow with it and overcome it. Otherwise, it doesn’t make you stronger. It just makes you a masochist. No pain, no gain in the end.

When you actually befriend it, when you reframe it as we’ve said, it loses its negative effect on you. And you begin to, we wouldn’t say actually look forward to it, but you’re not scared of it. There’s not the anchor chain, the drag, the emotional pull down, the energy loss. It actually turns into a positive and you go, “Okay. This is the signpost. This is the way forward.”

As Universal Men we’ve got to reflect, face and know that pain will be our greatest teacher if we but make the courageous choices – and that pathway is a pathway to something really special.

“Don’t die with the music in you!”
Dr Wayne Dyer

Music the energy of our spirit

Imagine a world without music! Music in all its forms; your favourite band as you work out or jog, that symphony orchestra that brings deeper emotion to the surface or the music of silence as you surf, fish or sip a wine with a loved one; music is the energy of our spirit. A world without music would be so colourless, dry, dull and boring. Music, an art form that we all need, it’s part of us, it’s part of our souls, it’s part of our spirit.


In this episode of Universal Man we look at music and the role it plays in our lives and the invitation we all share to make music, to harness of the power of music to make something unique and special from within ourselves that will add beauty to our world.


At Greg’s wedding he and his beautiful wife danced the bridal waltz to Bon Jovi and Bed of Roses. They had choreographed their dance to this beautiful music. The wedding guests gathered close around as Greg and Char spun and dipped and twirled. As we watched we were all lifted up, there was something special in the music, in the dance and in the love being danced and celebrated. It wasn’t just music, it wasn’t just dance; the intent to go within made it all so much more. Music’s such an important thing. It’s kind of like a way inside into our spirit. It helps us find meaning. It’s a time and space when we can actually relax, switch off, dream, do all sorts of things. It’s that … it’s like a way in.

What role does music play in YOUR life?

Historically, music has played an enormous role in cultural change. You know, in the early days everything was classic. It came from all the classic European composers. As time went on culture changed the music and the music changed the culture. In the 40s and the ’50s we went through all the swing music, then all of a sudden rock and roll turned up. Culture changed on the back of rock and roll. Then it was like heavy metal and into rap and hip hop and all these different versions of music now that are out there. And all of those have led to all of these subcultures. So the very nature of humanity and our culture, throughout the whole of the planet, has been driven by music. All the ceremony of tribes and different groups around the world, they’ve come together around music and dance.


As men, we need to really deliberately engage with this. We need to say, what role does music play within our lives? How can we use it to make us an even finer man? We go back to our pillars, know thyself, grow thyself, and brotherhood. Most guys spend a bit of time doing some introspection. Maybe a bit of a journal here or there. Or maybe going for a long walk or sit on a mountaintop and just thinking. And how often have those times you have been accompanied by some music. Maybe some melancholy music or something to make you think a bit deeper, you know. There is something there.


Music catalyst, litmus test and inspiration – changing your stateMusic is a catalyst. And it is a catalyst for deepening friendships. It is a catalyst for when you’re getting stuck, how to unstuck yourself. It’s a catalyst for relaxation or going inside. Music can bond you and those around you. Some sporting teams have a particular song that they play / sing at the end of every game. It helps create culture, a feeling of belonging; a sense of ‘us’. Rituals like this produce the glue that can stick you together in the tough times. It becomes a unifying song.


Music is almost a bit of a litmus test of how relaxed you are within your own self. If you’re in a great zone, music’s going to be part of your life. When you’re not in a really good space, you’ll often find music is not there. Pricey cannot sing, hopeless bloody singer. But often when walking along a beach, especially when on his own, he will sing! He is in great space; walking along a beach, singing away; in great spirit and great for his spirit!


Music is something that can really inspire you and take you to a new level. It’s really interesting how when you use music, that there’s certain times that you want to use a certain kind of music as opposed to another. Like when Greg goes to the gym, he will always listen to Foo Fighters. It just gets him in the mood to work out. But when on a plane flying interstate for some work, he will listen to way more melancholy tunes, because he doesn’t want the intensity of the gym music. What music does is it changes your state. It changes your emotional state and where you are in the moment. We use music to get us into the right state of mind or to reinforce or deepen that state.


Some looking for inspiration may put on some classical music or maybe some epic soundtracks or something that, you know, straight out of Gladiator or Braveheart to get pumped up. And if you use it in that way, then it becomes a magnificent catalyst for growing yourself, knowing yourself, and brotherhood.

Touching your inner spirit


One time Pricey was returning from facilitating a young adult retreat and a young friend of his, Dave, was sitting in the passenger seat. It was about half past eight at night. As he started off on the trip Pricey put on a CD of beautiful music. The first song that played was the theme from the movie Life as a House. It’s this beautiful, orchestral piece with a sense of epic and of awe. They were driving along, this piece is playing and Pricey looked across at Dave, and he was just in his zone with tears coming down his cheeks. Pricey’s gut feeling said not to say anything because the music was taking Dave into a space that he wanted to be in, that he needed to be in. It was a really special kind of a moment.


We all use music in the way we need to – to put in sync with our best self in that moment. On a plane, relaxing, listening to melancholy music – then off the plane and into an important meeting – perhaps game time music – in Greg’s case it’s Guns N’ Roses or Metallica or something like that – for Pricey, showing his age, Eye of the Tiger!

In your zone – in flow

How often do you see athletes now before a match, you see like the pre-match. And everyone’s in the changing room and they’ve all got those great big headphones and all listen to their own tunes or whatever they are. And just trying to reconnect with their spirit that they’re going to take on to the field. The whole thing about this, too, is it can create a sense of balance. Because when we’ve turned the music off in all its forms, we can go within ourselves in a kind of an overly serious way – we over think things. We can be going around in a circle. The music almost takes us out of that.

The Science of state control

This takes us back to the science of state control or emotional state control where really there’s three to four main ways of changing your state quickly. One is just shift your posture. Everybody knows what it looks like to see someone who’s depressed as opposed to the shape of their body if they’re confident. Another is your breathing rate, if you change the rhythm of that, which is like at the core of things like yoga and meditation, that changes your state as well. Then the last one is that mindset and then rhythm. Every state has a rhythm to it.


That’s why when you listen to music and you start almost connecting with the rhythm and the beat, your state shifts immediately. And there’s an old rule that if you’re stuck in a depressive or a sad state or a stuck sort of state, get up and go for a walk around the block. Because physically, that will start to get you moving into a new space. And music can do that on the spot. It can get that change of state that you need and get you shifted again.


Rhythm! Think of Robert De Niro doing the tango with that gorgeous woman in the movie Scent of a Woman. It’s a powerful scene. But here he is, rhythm, and he’s in his zone. And what it all does is, it’s a way of being gentle with yourself. It’s your space, because each of us has got our song. Our particular music. Often a couple will say that was our particular song. You have been out to dinner with friends and then all of a sudden a song will come on and the couple will look at one another and, you know, smile. It’s special. It’ their song!

Ritual and Tradition

This ‘our song’ business – it creates this sense of ritual and tradition amongst us. And this is the important thing about brotherhood. We men need our rituals and traditions and music can be a vital part of that. Grego has a couple of mates and they did a lot of backpacking when they were very young fellows. They didn’t mind a beer back in the day. One of the things they had was when this Guns N’ Roses song came on called Paradise City, which they just loved, they made this little pact between themselves that whenever that song would come on, it wouldn’t matter where they were, they would go to the nearest place possible and scull a beer. Most ridiculous ritual traditional you’ve ever imagined. But when you’re 19 and 20, this is the kind of crazy stuff you did.


Have you ever been in a bar with a group of three or four mates and a spontaneous kind of a sing along starts. And you go from one song to the next and you look around, then you get home and you think, wasn’t that great? You kind of belonged. It was you felt a member of that particular group. It was like a tradition ritual. Often one song in particular, or one type of music becomes YOUR anthem individually or collectively; and that is good.


An anthem is … an anthem is the song of a group, right. It is literally what gets the hairs on the back of your head upright; Waltzing Matilda, Only 19 or The band played Waltzing Matilda! Watch the Superbowl when Star Spangled Banner is played or be trapped in the stands of Anfield as the Liverpool faithful sing, “You never walk alone!” or courageously wear green and gold at Murrayfield as the crowd sing, ‘Flower of Scotland’! It is powerful, it is anthem – it is spirit; it is us! And even when what is being sung is not YOUR anthem – when those around you are singing their anthem – it brings from within you a deep sense of awe and respect.


A mate of Pricey, Matt, was the defensive coach for the Scottish Rugby team. And he tells that when the Scots get up, they sing Flower of Scotland. It isn’t just a song. It’s much more. It goes to the heart. And those men on the field, they’ll tackle a giant after that.


So what the message here for Universal Men is that music is a tool. It’s a catalyst for creating belonging, for creating memory, for creating state change, for growing yourself, knowing yourself, and brotherhood. And a whole range of other wonderful things that make us uniquely human.


And when music’s not there in your life, go find it again. Wayne Bennett titled his book, “Don’t die with the music in you!” He based it on a quote from Dr Wayne Dyer. Everyone of us has our unique music within and around us; give it expression – dance and truly live!