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Archive for the ‘Pain’ Category

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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In his book, Peace Begins Here, Thich Nhat Hanh writes:  “Despair is the worst thing that can happen to us.”  He was a young monk during the war in Vietnam and he knew that those around him were suffering and feeling like no hope was in sight; maybe hope wasn’t even possible.  After being silent for quite awhile, Thay said to those around him:  “Dear Friends, the Buddha said everything is impermanent.  The war has to end one day.”  He felt this was important for people to hear at that moment.  He hoped that they realized there were things for them to do to life themselves out of the despair, once they realized that that’s where they were.

And as I was reading, I thought these were important words to live by, for me, here and now, both on the global level and the individual level.  Right now, I am facing a difficult situation, a bit of a crossroads and don’t know which way to go and since I am not clear, I find that I can get trapped right where I am, stagnant, fretting, wondering, conjecturing, etc.  And what does that do but wake up me up at 3am.  It saps my energy, makes me cranky, increases my stress, I have more pain on more days, and shut down and off, alienating myself from the few people right around me that care.

Isn’t that how I, and much of the world, feels right now about the situation with our planet melting, children going hungry, the rich getting richer, it being illegal to feed a homeless person, people being killed because they show up to help people at the job at Planned Parenthood and are being killed, etc.  Or they go to a movie, a game, a holiday party a restaurant and are being bombed.  We are paralyzed by fear and smoldering anger that we don’t know what to do with, that we cannot fathom there is anything that we can do with that intense level of emotion.  We get stuck, we stew, we head to Facebook or Twitter and rip into someone or some idea.  We get barely a second of satisfaction but it’s hallow and it doesn’t last.  All it does is exercise our anger muscles, making them stronger.  Sounds like my life is a mere echo of what so many in the world are feeling today.

But in his book, Thay goes on to say,  “It is very important to find out what we can do every day so that we don’t drown in an ocean of despair.”  He explains further that there are Israelis who do not agree with their government and speak out and they need to be supported.  At the same time, there are Israelis who refuse to go to war because they know it is wrong.  Does that change the pain and suffering of the Palestinians?  Yes and no.  Does it solve the bigger picture or end the war, hate, and deaths?  No.  There is no simple answers or remedies to that.  Does it help to know that there are people on both sides who want peace and do not want to see one more generation of people killed?  Yes.  It helps to give you a bigger perspective, to move from fear and anger into feelings of unity, cooperation, and hope.

We can’t always wait for sweeping gestures or one final solution to a conflict, global or not.  Some times it is the simple smile or acknowledgement by a stranger that can snap us into a different frame of mind.  We move ourselves from the perspective of being stuck, overwhelmed, and seeing no way out to having some sort of options.  Or we know someone else out there feels similar about a situation.  It’s a sliver of light in a dark universe.  It’s the seed of change being watered and cared for until it becomes a seedling.

In my own situation, it does me no good to sit and brood about my problems or to wallow in the Poor Mes.  I’ve done it, sat in it and it’s time to change that diaper.  So I do not have the power to change my ultimate outcome but I can change my perspective on the path from here to there.  I can educate myself, talk to others, do something for others, reach out, ask for help, sit with the painful feelings and fear and work to accept that right now, that’s where I am at.  I can blog, meditate, visualize, ask questions, listen, inject humor.  And like in Logotherapy, I can think of and feel the most outrageous thing associated with my situation, the things I fear the most, deep down within my cells, and see the absurdity or anxiety which stems from those fears.  Then I am able to move through feeling paralyzed to action, advocacy, helping others, etc.

Everything in life is impermanent. . .  this election cycle, global warming, all of the hatred for people who are “the other”.  Our health, our age, our relationships, our grief, our illness, our vocation, our material things. . .  none of them last in this existence, in the same way, unchanging forever.  That takes some of the pressure off.  It lifts us out of option reduction and narrow thinking to realize that things will change when we take a minute (or longer).  I think despair is even more deadly, darker, more stuck than hate or anger.  I think that despair can be the quagmire that some cannot turn back from.

So here are my questions to you (and to myself):  where are you, here and now, in your ideas, feelings, perceptions, relationships, grief, boredom, etc?  Where are the areas of your life that you cannot imagine ever changing, ever being better, ever being worse?  What is it like for you to be with that?  If you sit with the idea and feeling that something in your life that matters, good or bad, will not last, will be gone, what comes up for you?  What arises when you think of your health disappearing?  Your youth?  The love of your life?  Your enemy?  What are the things that bring up loss in your heart?  Can you let them light in your heart?

One of the most amazingly healing things that I have ever done, and I know I have written about it before, is the tapes/cds, by Stephen and Andrea Levine, The Heart of Grief.  They describe the huge painful losses and griefs, the small daily ones, the ones we don’t think we want to live after, the ones that make us or break us.  Its a good program to listen to when you want to meditate on impermanent.  There are also meditations that you can do, such as ones on end-of-life. . . but start off small.  Don’t take on the huge issues, especially without support.  Find a mediation buddy or teacher or sangha or therapist.  And if you never heed these words about anything else in life, heed them on your journey. . . take gentle care of yourself.

In light and hope,

Jennifer

 

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