As I make a fresh start with this blog,I'm beginning with Buddhism's Eightfold Path. I mentioned the Four Noble Truths in my previous post because the Truths are the first step on the Path. I also explained that I separate pain (what comes to us inevitably as part of life) from suffering (what we do to exacerbate pain, like worrying, complaining, wishing things were different, etc). So here is how I understand the Four Noble Truths.
FIRST: Pain is an inevitable part of life.
SECOND: Suffering happens when we attach ourselves to our desires rather than accepting life's pain.
THIRD: Suffering ends when we detach from our desires and accept pain as inevitable.
FOURTH: The Eightfold Path offers a way to practice and learn detachment.
These Truths form the first step on the Eightfold Path, and that step is called Right Thinking.
There's a quality of self-examination that is essential for ending suffering, a self-awareness that permits examination of our thoughts. When I had to leave work I loved because the migraines were interfering too much, it took me many months to realize that certain thoughts -- what if I never work again? -- and emotions -- feeling victimized -- were unnecessary, yet of my choosing.
Here's what I discovered when I began to choose to rise above my self-imposed suffering: just sitting with life's pain is really hard. Not that suffering is easy, but there's something about cycling through suffering that holds a kind of odd payoff for our need to figure things out or our addictions.
Yet there is a purity in acceptance, a scraping away of baggage and addiction and desire that brings one face to face with God, or Allah, or our Buddha Nature, or the Great Mother, whatever language one uses for the Ultimate Divinity for which we're all searching.
Christians sing a hymn, Just As I Am. After the title phrase that begins each verse, various realities of life are acknowledged without one plea,
* waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot
* tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt
* fightings within, fears without
* poor, wretched, blindand with the expectation that Christ will cleanse, will purify, having shed blood for us.
Isn't it what we're all wanting, really wanting, deep under daily problems and triumphs and sufferings? We think it will come to us if this ache or hurt would just go away, or if someone would give me a job, or if she/he would just come to realize we were meant to be together, or if I would just stop making mistakes and be right all the time, or if I could have just one more drink, one last puff at that pipe.
Above I wrote, sitting with life's pain is really hard. But that's not the final word. Learning to accept pain by letting go of self-created suffering, by detaching from desires, is the opening of the doorway to joy. That's what I'll write about in my next post.
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