Suffering (written 2008)
In my daily mindfulness practice I am working to shift inward in intentions. I have let myself weave fantasies and worlds of worry.
Sometimes I feel like I'm turning a corner. The teachings my hands fall upon. The incidents and accidents of people, conversations, and events. But, this is my center right now: Emotions. Relationships. Through the pain and not hoping to dissolve it.
I began on this path through the intensity of grief. The meaninglessness of life...loss, pain, illness. The webs we weave of misunderstanding and confusion. Seeing how I'd wrested control of my life, made deliberate moves and found sorrow or disappointment there. But I see what I wanted was a substitute for the Christian heaven. Yes. A reassurance of something beyond this, something better. And the doctrines of a universal consciousness struck home with me. No man-god on his cloud-throne but a throbbing living universe of which we are just parts. And getting beyond the isolation of “selves” we find this. OK
But what my heart clung too was the “beyond”...leaving pain behind, feeling the union. A transformation in thinking is slowly happening here with the changes around me, the teachings I'm pondering and practicing with. The meaning of this life is the bearing of suffering as a partner of joy. Not moving beyond it, but into it. Acceptance. Grace. We don't need to seek pain. It is part of living. Of the vulnerability of our bodies, of the changes life brings, of the complexity of building relationships in a world full of others like this very self but in each separate subjective context. There is suffering. We don't escape this. We accept it. And this ennobles us and is the meaning of human existence. Yes.
And over and over again in these past few days the tears sting my eyes and I feel this bittersweet truth as if it were running through my veins. It is. I live. I am human. I suffer. But I also thrill to this world and its gifts. And I can live both deeply and well with the support of this practice path: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. When I hold to this, attachments fall away and there is an end to subjective suffering which I see now as the suffering of struggle.
I think about the path I've found. This practice path that teaches me to soften. To open my heart and breathe and acknowledge what is. But not to cling to it. Don't hold the pain near and dear. Don't hold the wall between you and the pain near and dear. Breathe it in. Breathe it out. Living. Losing. Dying. It hurts. But joy is possible. Equanimity is possible. Novice that I am, practice has taught me this. The flies struggling in the web. Wishing they had not landed here. Wearing themselves out trying to escape. They suffer more. The fly that stays still. Breathes the air still flowing. Watches the shimmer of light on the web. Accepts even the shadow of the approaching spider. That fly is serene. The metaphor does not imply passivity but active living of what is. Of now. Not wasting time in aversion and desire. But it is a path each of us must come to, to seek. One foot in front of the other. One breath after another. Not something someone can lead me to.