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Archive for the ‘Four Noble Truths’ Category

Caregiving has always been a “thing” that my family did.  Growing up, my brother and parents helped take care of our land lady, Grandma Martin, who lived upstairs and had Melanoma.

In 8th grade/Freshman year in high school, I volunteered at The Jewish Home for the Elderly of Fairfield Co.

We took care of my grandfather after heart surgeries.  And there were a number of them.  Some cardiac surgeon probably built a gazebo with all of the stays my grandfather had at Yale.

1993-1995, we were caregivers to my dying brother.  Don’t try to be a caregiver if you don’t have support and a good massage therapist, yoga teacher, and awesome friends!

I’ve worked with people who have DD diagnosis, addicts, hospice, and general counseling.  Have helped my parents with food prep for their freezer or late night computer questions.  Weight Watchers leader, etc.  Have done that since Dec 2013.

Then sometimes, the tables are reversed; some times out of choice, some times because that’s the way the world turns….

I find myself as patient right now and will be again this Spring.  Hospitalized from uncontrolled migraines.  And this is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself, save completing my Advanced Directives.

But being on the other end of caregiving has been weird the past 2 1/4 days.  It’s weird to have folks kind of waiting on me.  It’s weird being pushed down the hall in a wheel chair rather than pushing (which is what I did when I hurt my back at the nursing home).  And I figured out in less that 24 hours, they gave me 102 oz of ice water to drink.  God, my Grandma (Gussy) would have loved all the ice water.

Anyway, the staff at St Joseph’s Hospital in Chicago, have been sooo awesome!  I cannot say that enough.  What a difference in caregiving from what I see every day, day in and day out at my workplace.  I had not planned to order dinner but at 5:30, I even had the cafe call and ask if I was planning to order.  How nice and dedicated to service this hospital is.  This is also the unit (floor) for the Diamond Headache Clinic and I always feel I get good care there too.

But, when I was wheeled down for an MRI, this tiny woman from Yugoslavia pushed me in the wheelchair.  She was well over 60 and I felt like a heel for them having her do it.  I was doped on Valium but could have pushed myself down there.  What went through my head was, you don’t deserve this, I am able and competent. . . yada, yada. . .

But I heard myself, as I talked to myself.  I was raised that the way you do good in this world, the reason you took this life, (or that the gods gave it to you) was to love others, be of service, and emulate your life like the great wise ones (well, as a catholic girl, that was Mary, Jesus, etc).  I have felt guilt for years if I wasn’t the one making things better.  But, as I read on the wall downstairs, we are here to give love to our neighbors and treat them well. . . not something being seen much in the media, social media, etc etc.

So here are some of the questions I am asking myself while I try to be mindful during my stay here:

What does caregiving mean to me?  Am I comfortable with the role of caregiver and care receiver?  If not, why?  Who have been the caregivers in my life and what was our relationship?  Who have I given care to?  Do I remember them all (as a professional who worked with HIV clients, I’ve had many patients die).  What gifts that I and my wards give each other?  What blessing did my caregivers grant me, if any?  If you are still currently a caregiver, do you use your support system, do you say no, how do you recharge your battery, how do you balance issues of intimacy?  Can you turn off your caregiving to be present at home?  What’s the most important part of caregiving for you?  What kind of care do you need.

In spirit… Jennifer

 

 

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The Third Noble Truth. . .   There is an end to suffering. But how?  Don’t you think if everyone knew there was a way we’d all be signing up?  Ani Pema Chodron writes in Comfortable with Uncertainty, “. . . suffering ceases when we let go of trying to maintain the huge ME at any cost.  This is what we practice in meditation. When we let go of thinking and the story line, we’re left just sitting with the quality and the energy of whatever particular ‘weather’ we’ve been trying to resist.”    What?  Okay, no wonder were not lining up around the corner.  I love Ani Pema but what does this mean in real terms?

The cessation of suffering is to put an end to the cravings, clinging, desire, ignorance, obsession and more.

Oh, okay.  Wait, what?  We can stop suffering by stopping are ignorance and desire?  We can stop it when we let go and stop clinging?  That’s great!  Wait, who would I be without my attachment or my perseverating?  How can I stop wanting?  I’m sure there will be an iSomething out soon. . .  and I will HAVE TO HAVE IT!

Wait, there’s more. . .

When suffering is stopped, there is also no more rebirth, suffering, and no dying again.  This is the liberation of all beings from the cycle.  Then we are free.

Mandy Barrow, on resources.woodlands-junior.ket.school, a homework resource for kids in the UK, interprets the Third Noble Truth like this:  “The third truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible.  If [we] let go of our craving and learn to live each day at a time (not dwelling in the past or the imagined future) then we can become happy and free.  We then have more time and energy to help others.  This is Nirvana”.

We have so many stories in our heads.   We have so many wishes in our hearts.  And the more impossible they are, the more we probably want them, and the more we want them, the more suffering we have.  I have some that I am not sure I will ever want to let go of, no matter how much pain they cause.  To me, some of these stories, at least right now, are the breath that keeps me alive.  But if I want contentment, peace, ease, am I willing to let go of that which I grasp onto the tightest?

I think it’s so important to do this work (see the upcoming post on the Eight-fold Path) with the Buddha,  Dharma, and the Sangha.  They are our inspiration, our safety net, they are our teacher, and our support.  If the journey was easy, a lot more of us shining in our contentment.  But there isn’t. . . whenever starting a journey into the unknown, make sure you have your tools, your guide, and your desire to let go.

And the best news, the Buddha gave us the tools.  The Fourth Noble Truth is the tool, the ultimate tool.  The Fourth Noble Truth is that they way out of our suffering is The Eight-fold Path.  Over the next few days, in addition to other things, I will write about The Path.

Until then, ask yourself some gentle, kind, questions and just sit with what answers come up for you.  What would you be without your storyline?  You desires?  You want for a different outcome?  Who would you be if you were not always right?  Who are you, stripped down of all the trim and trappings?  Are you ready to sit and be present to whoever it is you find?

With deep respect and honor,

Jennifer

 

 

 

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Mark Hanson, psychologist and neuroscientist, sums up the Second Noble Truth like this:  The Second Noble Truth is the Cause of Suffering.  And what causes suffering?  It is our clinging to things, objects, ideas, rituals, people, etc.

Clinging can be described as:

  • Desire
  • Attachment
  • Obsession
  • Craving pleasures, material goods, immortality, etc
  • Righteousness
  • Griping
  • Hunger
  • Persevering
  • Obstinate
  • Ignorance

In Comfortable with Uncertainty, Pema Chodron writes that the Second Noble Truth says, “. . .resistance is the fundamental operating mechanism of what we call ego, that resisting life causes suffering.”  She goes further to say that we are “addicted to ME”.

Life is constantly changing and everything in life changes as well.  Developmentally, cognitively, spiritually, socially we change.  We might be 60 yrs old and probably don’t have the same friends we do in elementary school (though I plan that to be the exception to that case).  At 21, we might not like the same food we did as kids.  Even the weather changes and depending where you live it might change very, very quickly, like on the ride from the foothills in Boulder, up the mountain, and back down to Denver.  I think we figured it out and we experienced a 30 degree change in one afternoon.

I can’t speak for all of us, but I’ve read several times that people who have migraines have brains that like the same things to happen.  Wake up and go to sleep every day at the same times.  Same amount of caffeine.  Same time eating.  Etc, etc, etc.  I have a feeling that it is not only people with migraines that like that.  I know that I have worked with men and women who have Autism who also like their schedules to stay the same.  And again, I don’t think that it’s just Autistic people that don’t like change.  Actually, I know that to be the truth.  If we are human, most of us desire (need) things to remain the same or we suffer.

I’m dating myself but do you remember when Coke Cola decided to come out with New Coke.  Worst idea ever.  Why?  We like what we like and we don’t like change.  How could they ruin our lives and make us drink New Coke?  I mean really, why spoil great?  Every time hotmail.com changes their email platform my parents want to pull their hair out. . .  “but the button was always on the right, why did they move it”?  We don’t like change and these are small changes in the grand scheme of our lives.

We have people we love move, they get older, they die.  We have fights with people we love or we (or they) betray each other.  I’ve found that I need to keep my keys, jewelry, pen I use at work, and cell phone in a bowl by the door.  I’m great when I do every day.  But, some days, I get a call as I walk in or I have too many grocery bags, (whatever), and the next morning, I am a sheer panic because my safety net is gone.  Panic.  Where’d the phone go?  Oh my god, I’m gonna be late.  Where the hell are those keys?  Where’s the ring that so and so gave me and it will start my morning off in a foul way and I have to make every effort to stop, breathe, and go on.  It is a good reminder of how far I still have to go on my journey.

The Second Noble Truth speaks to the birth of our suffering. . . our clinging, our need for sameness, how we think the world should be, how we think everything should be. We resist change and it is this resistance that causes our suffering.  It’s easy to look at the first and second noble truths and think:  great optimism Buddhists!  There’s suffering in life and our need to live by our ego that guides our persistent need to have everything remain the same and static.  It’s really easy to believe that and close the book.  Walk away.  Shake our heads and think, wow, such nihilists.  But it’s only the beginning.  We have to look at the nature of reality if we want to understand our suffering.

I don’t think there is any better example of the Second Noble Truth than grief.  I know that might be hard to swallow for some.  We can suffer terribly when we experience the loss of someone we love, adore, cherish.  We can’t imagine living our lives without the love of our life.  We certainly cannot fathom the loss of our children while we are still alive.  Now, I don’t think that our connectedness is bad, far from it.  But we experience such immense pain.

And think about what happened when a special person to you died. . .do you remember hearing that joke and wanting to forward that email to that person who isn’t here?  Do you remember how you felt when you started to forward the email?  Or how it felt when your grandfather didn’t call right after dinner to hear how your day was?  Such emptiness. Such longing.  And such suffering and some times we never get over it.  Well, I don’t think we ever get over our loss.  I don’t think we reconcile with it, have closure, etc.  We hope with time it hurts a little less.

So, after some thought, some quiet time:  what do you find are those things in life that you cling to the most?  How you were raised?  Your political views?  Your spiritual views?  What do you desire, need, want, have to have?  And how do we work with our desires while living in a society that is created to make us constantly want what we don’t have and don’t really need?  How do we work to not become extremists in our thinking and how we live our lives?  How do we work with our societal need for youth?  Beauty? Money?  How do we live with our pain (any kind of pain — physical, spiritual, psychological, etc)?  How do we loosen our grip and learn to breathe?

The Third Noble Truth is “There is an End to Suffering.”  Come back in a few days are check out the post on the Third Noble Truth.

In solidarity and with hope,

Jennifer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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So in my post the other day, #Enough, I started to discuss the Four Noble Truths.  The first truth is: Life has inevitable suffering.  In Pali, the word for suffering is dukkha.  Dukkha can also mean ill-being, uneasiness, pain, or suffering.  Our experiences are not satisfying.  We cannot avoid pain, illness, trauma, stress, etc.  We age.  We get sick.  We experience the death of a loved one.  We can feel restless, hurt, disappointed, let down, depressed.  All of these experiences are seen or felt as negative and give us some sort of discomfort.  Right now, it’s 85 degrees in my office and I’m flushed and cranky.  That is dukkha.

When I read the posts on Facebook this week, I felt sadness, anger, frustration, helplessness, fear, etc.  All of this is suffering.  All over the world.  It’s unavoidable if you are sentient.  Think about childbirth; wonderful thing, right?  But with it comes morning sickness, nausea, stretch marks, pain, contractions, bloating, and swollen ankles and feet.  Yes, our end result is the beautiful life we bring into this world, but that beauty and love, and natural impulse toward bringing life into this world comes with difficult experiences.

And just as our suffering is part of our experience, from the very first breath we take, so is our innate desire to move away from pain.  I’m a baby and I’m hungry.  I want to move away from the hunger and I cry to let you know I need something.  Suffering.  I can’t leave a job I have, despite hating it, because I need the money, insurance, whatever it is that we get from being employed.  Suffering.  Payday comes and I feel happy to have money.  Almost all of my money goes towards paying bills and I’m left with enough to just get by. . .   Suffering.

No matter how happy we are, how loved we feel, how grounded, we still experience this kind of suffering.  It’s December and I’m too cold and wish it was 85.  It’s July and humid and I want it to be cold.  All this suffering that we try to escape.  And escaping isn’t necessarily bad but it can also cause more suffering.  But do I even realize I am suffering or am I just constantly ill-tempered and don’t know that I am constantly complaining.  This is suffering because I don’t even know what is contributing to my pain, and sometimes, I do not realize that I am in pain.

Stephen Levine has a wonderful cd mediation about grief.  Not just the loss of a person but all of the losses in our lives, such as pain.  So, he’s really talking about our dukkha.  And as he asks us to acknowledge it, feel it in our bodies, through the meditation he asks us to connect with all being, all over the world and in all times, that are having or have had the same experience of pain.  We connect with them and we see we are not alone.  We realize that if others feel pain, that pain is universal.  This realization can helps us to move from my pain into the pain.  Even though we are acknowledging all the pain in the world, when we look at the pain, it becomes easier to handle.  It’s not my pain or even our pain; it is the pain.

I had moved when I was in college, not really by my choice or so I thought at the time.  I had just spent two years studying existentialism and had read The Plague by one of my favorite authors, Albert Camus.  I felt alone, lonely, angry, frustrated, out of place. . .  I felt like I had been exiled from my own land, the place I knew and had lived for 20 years.  When I remembered Camus’ book and how some of the people felt out of place, I felt better.  I could relate and I felt less alone.  Someone, even it was Camus, as depicted by the characters in his book, knew the experience I was in.  I knew I wasn’t as alone, despite the fact that Camus had died in 1960 (11 yrs before my birth).

Two years later, I found out my brother had HIV and again, I turned my attention to Camus.  As Mike was dying and I was finishing college, I went to work for an AIDS social service agency.  I felt the plague all around me; not the HIV, but the suffering and dying.  Everyone I knew, save my parents and friends back home, was dying.  I felt like I was suffocating at times.  But when I thought of the residents of Oran, Algeria, and how they watched the suffering of others, sometimes to the point of doing not much more than talk about the weather to avoid the suffering that was everywhere.

As I worked with this fear, pain, sadness, and overwhelming experience, I realized, we are all dying.  All over this planet, as long as people had been alive, they were dying.  We might experience it differently, but in the end, dying.  So when I could settle myself and breathe, I could see that whether we knew we had an illness or not, whether we could predict when or not, we were all dying but it wasn’t my death or the death of my clients, it was THE DYING of all impermanent things/beings.

So I ask you, what suffering do you have in your present life?  Have you sat and just experienced it, with the tv off, without the sounds of the dog, the kids, the co-workers down the hall?  Have you allowed your awareness to scan your body and see where your suffering lives?  Have you breathed it into your heart and sat with the fact that there is suffering of all kinds in your life, all kinds of pain and losses.

Can you or will you just sit with what that is and feel it in your body, in your cells.  They tell people in AA that the first step is acknowledging that you are powerless.  In the case of Buddhism, the first truth is acknowledging your suffering.

Do you have a friend, a dog, a lover, a sibling, anyone who can sit with you in silence and allow you to sit with your suffering and be there to hold a safe space for you?  If not, what is that like?  If yes, are you willing to sit with it?

The First Noble Truth is there is suffering in our existence.  The Second Noble Truth is: There is a cause to our suffering.  This will be the next truth we explore.  Please share your experiences, if you feel comfortable and please come back and learn more about the Four Noble Truths.  Also, come back as I will have a post about Tongle Meditation that will post soon, giving you a way to sit with and work with your suffering

Until then, Metta.  Jennifer

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