Love and Light Blog by Diane Donovan-Vaughn 7/20/2019
The four noble truths in ancient Buddhist texts explain the nature of suffering and liberation. The first noble truth says that to live is to experience suffering. The second noble truth says that the causes of suffering are attachments or desires and aversions to experiences. The third noble truth says that liberation from suffering can be attained by controlling desires and practicing non-attachment, including non-attachment to aversions. Ultimately, the fourth noble truths state that living a balanced life will happen when one follows the Eightfold path resulting in the end of suffering.
The eightfold path includes (1) Right view; (2) Right intention; (3) Right Speech; (4) Right action; (5) Right livelihood; (6) Right effort; (7) Right Mindfulness; (8) Right Concentration.
Notice that mindfulness is one of the eight practices that help to eliminate suffering. Just by practicing Mindfulness, one can begin to notice attachments, desires and aversions. Mindfulness allows one to notice emotions, feelings, body states, thoughts, energy, and the surrounding energy of the world. In the beginning, it can be difficult for someone to tell the difference between a thought and reality. For example, a common way this can be seen is when someone comes into a therapy session in a triangle communication pattern. This pattern would happen if my son tells me something insulting to me that my daughter supposedly said. The mistake happens when I get angry with my daughter and tell the therapist my daughter disrespects me. My daughter said nothing to me. This would be an example of me not know the difference between a thought and reality. My son implants a negative thought, producing painful emotions and my mind creates a false reality. It can be turned down, by the way.
A mistake that one could make when attempting to let go of desires, attachments and aversions is to suppress them with a white-knuckle approach. Attachments or desires and aversions already exist within every person and cannot be managed by becoming really good at pretending they do not. Suppressing these natural reactions to planet earth will not eliminate suffering just like going on a radical diet will not create a healthy pattern of eating.
The most common mistake one makes with suffering is exaggeration of suffering. When I first studied therapeutic techniques, we were taught to help the suffering client exaggerate their suffering as a way to end it. These types of techniques have been shown to actually increase trauma or to further traumatize the client. Researchers studied these techniques and have found better ways to minimize damage when dealing with trauma. Even worse these researchers found that having huge emotional cathartic experiences could be addictive, basically ensuring an attachment to suffering. The treatment itself has become a problem. Just recently, researchers in Canada found that allowing the mind to wander may adversely affect cognitive tasks. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/media-spotlight/201304/letting-your-mind-wander)
However, in the end, balance is advised as the key, which brings us to the next path.
A therapist once said to me, “Diane you carry your issues around like a huge garbage bag on your back. Are you ready to let them go?” Issues, attachments, desires and aversions are not exactly going to magically go away. However, with mindfulness anyone can improve how much attention is given to garbage. In fact, rather than perceiving these issues as garbage, a better metaphor would be to see them as your personal suffering. Remember, you are not wrong to suffer because to live is to suffer. The cure is to practice loving self-compassion when you notice your suffering, to feel your suffering, to not exaggerate it, and to notice it all.
My mother apparently was a Buddhist because she often preached the cure for suffering when she advised moderation. My mother could smoke one cigarette a week. When asked how she could smoke only one a week, she would say, “I don’t inhale.” Bill Clinton got that quote from my mom. By the way, most of us nicotine addicts cannot smoke only one even if the mind tries to convince us that we can. Perhaps since she was tortured and suffering over the rampant alcoholism of her father, she decided that moderation would be the key to a better life. She is right. The Buddhist path is called the Middle Way, embracing the oneness rather that practicing dualism or excessive attachments to one part of reality while excluding others.
Remember that letting go of attachments does not mean you are not attached to anything or anyone. The practice of the middle way is to live in the impermanence of existence rather than clinging to an unchanging fantasy. As suffering naturally occurs, mindfulness can help one offer loving self-compassion. As choices appear, one can practice making them based on 1) Right view; (2) Right intention; (3) Right Speech; (4) Right action; (5) Right livelihood; (6) Right effort; (7) Right Mindfulness; (8) Right Concentration.
How will know what is right? Meditation, mindfulness and walking the path of moderation will point the way. Mindfulness can reveal the goal of any decision. Desires, attachments and aversion are obvious. The problem has always been the brain’s ability to deny change with attempts to control the past and future.
Letting go of suffering is a practice to include in the mindfulness practice. Notice the daily ongoing suffering. Move attention away from the so-called source of the suffering, even if the source is the mind itself and sincerely give loving self-compassion. Then, notice all that is right with world while you are at it. This practice is the path to peace.
The selection today from Living a Life of Awareness by Don Miguel Ruiz JR. is titled “Embracing Change” on page 55.
Ruiz said, “Sometimes change comes in the blink of an eye. Our internal narrators may agree it is for the better, or think it’s for the worse. But we cannot avoid change.
“Of the many things will change over the course of your life, there is just one thing that will never change: awareness. The constant point of perception that you are is unchanging. In this world of polarities (we consider ‘up’ in relation to ‘down,’ or ‘hot’ in relation to ‘cold’), we can only recognize change because of this part of ourselves that does not change.
“Loving life unconditionally means knowing that life can shift without warning, just as the wind changes direction, but the strength of our own intent allows us to not only adapt to whatever life brings but also to thrive in our new circumstances.”
Ruiz practice: “Be in the present moment, continuously flowing with life, remembering that you are the constant in every second. Every change that occurs is happening ‘for you’ instead of ‘to you.’”
Practice: Close your eyes and take deep breaths, slowly in through the nose and out through the mouth. Notice your belly rising and falling. If it is comfortable, notice your chest and rib cage rising and falling as well. Relax as you exhale longer than you inhale. Place your attention on the center of your chest and listen for a minute to the silence. If your mind talks, just ask it to listen for a minute. You are awareness or a watcher of all that is happening. You are not the voices in your head. In the center of your being, in the silence within, the awareness that is connected and part of an immense oneness is indwelling as a human. Remember to connect with your true self and from that center send loving self-compassion to your human. Namaste
Buddhist reading list: