By Daniel G. Weidner, MA
When I awoke on the morning following the last national election I was suffering. The results of the election took me by surprise. The nature and personality of the President-elect gave me great concern. The future for our Democracy seemed uncertain. As a result I found it difficult to Meditate, and I still have times during meditation where I experience difficult and discursive thoughts that relate to the current political situation.
I cite this experience of suffering only as an illustration of how things that are beyond our control can have a significant impact upon our lives. I am reminded that the shape of our life and the nature of our thoughts have less to do with what we encounter than our relationship to them.
Through the practice of Mindful Meditation we are able to sit with and observe our thoughts, as well as related feelings and emotions. We have a choice when we sit with uncomfortable and painful thoughts. We can do what Pema Chodron suggests and "lean into the sharp points" or we can attempt to push the thoughts and related feelings out of our consciousness.
Meditators begin to understand that the latter option does not work. They begin to understand that their relationship to these thoughts and feelings shifts and changes when they take the time to just be with them in meditation. As we begin to become comfortable in meditation, and begin to habituate ourselves to openness, we come to know the nature of our thoughts and emotions. We see that they are ephemeral and impermanent, and thus we begin our investigation into suffering and our journey down the path of openness.
The Buddha taught that suffering points to the nature of the world of things and the inability of that world to satisfy or bring about happiness. Suffering tends to be self-induced. Suffering exposes us to the dualism of the human condition: pain and pleasure; happiness and sadness; kindness and hate; sorrow and joy...
The Buddhist teacher Ajahn Sumedho taught that when we learn to be with our thoughts and feelings in meditation we begin to admit the truth of suffering and dualism in our lives. He taught that through this process of conscious understanding we begin to change our perspective from "I am suffering" to "there is suffering." This realization is truly liberating. We come to grasp that suffering poses no inherent reality and that it arises and falls away due to its dependence upon causes and conditions-most of which are not in our control.
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