This is part 2 of 3 posts summarizing key points from Andrea Fella and Gil Fronsdal's Dharma talks during the course of our retreat, on Four Noble Truths. Today's post deals with the First Noble Truth, as seen by Gil:
The First Noble Truth, of truth of suffering, deals with dukha, a word that encapsulates stress, discomfort, and conflict with self, others, our emotions, our experiences. It is important to study our relationship to it. Some unwise, common strategies: 1) denial, avoidance, distraction anger, blame; 2)
looking for someone, something to take the responsibility
The 5 hindrances of sensual desires, ill will and anger, sloth and torpor, anxiety and restlessness, and doubt, are also ways that react to challenges as in, escape, blame, resistance, restlessness, and doubt, the most powerful of all.
It is important to really understand the internal causes and conditions of our suffering. The way to freedom lies in understanding our contribution to suffering. How is our heart closed? What are we resisting? What are we holding on to? A clever way to deal with suffering is not head on, but around the edges: what is my relationship to suffering?
Some unwise ways that we deal with suffering: 1) we place it in a story, eg, if I am uncomfortable it means something is wrong, or I am a failure; 2) we are a character in a story, eg, story of the victim, or the crusader for justice. Hence the importance of figuring out the story we have about ourselves in relationship to suffering.
3 valuable reasons to turn to (not away from) suffering:
1) it is true - without the extra added stories, we can have a simple relationship to suffering
2) there is inner wisdom there - when we are present to our suffering, the heart knows what to do - mindfulness is about not interfering by overindulging or turning away from suffering
3) we can learn from that suffering, since it can act as a mirror from which we can understand ourselves better.
Most suffering arises out of being in a relationship. The problem is the unhealthy ways, as in compulsivity and driven-ness, that we bring to our relationships.
Need to trust the inner unfolding of suffering, even if it takes a long time.
I find this approach to the First Noble Truth very empowering. We have a part in our suffering, and it is up to us to remove it, using the means of wisdom, mindfulness, and concentration.
Now, what is your story about suffering? What do you bring into the smelly pot?