I have taken the new habit of following early morning sitting meditation with a brisk walk out in the city - San Francisco. This morning, walking and being with steps, and breaths, and the smells of freshly cut grass in Alamo park, and the glorious views at the top of each hill, I was met with a familiar tightness in my midst. There were obvious causes for the unpleasantness - outer circumstances bringing a host of unhappy thoughts and emotions. Lots of fear and aversion . . .
Here we go again, I thought. This 'I' of mine is not liking things the way they are, based on recent circumstances and likely future events.
From Ajahn Chah, in A Tree in a Forest:
We contemplate happiness and unhappiness as uncertain and impermanent and understand that ll the various feelings are not lasting and not to be clung to. We see things in this way because there is wisdom. We understand that things are this way according to their own nature.
If we have this kind of understanding, it's like taking hold of one strand of a rope which makes a knot. If we pull it in the right direction, the knot will loosen and begin to untangle. It' ll no longer be so tight and tense.
This is similar to understanding that things don't always have to be the way they've always been. Before, we felt that things always had to be a certain way and, in so doing, we pulled the knot tighter and tighter. This tightness is suffering. Living that way is very tense. So we loosen the knot a little and relax. Why do we loosen it? Because it's tight! If we don't cling to it, then we can loosen it. It's not a condition that must always be that way.
We use the teaching of impermanence as our basis. We see that both happiness and unhappiness are not permanent. We see them as not dependable. There is absolutely nothing that's permanent. With this kind of understanding, we gradually stop believing in the various moods and feelings which come up in the mind. Wrong understanding will decrease to the same degree that we stop believing in it. This is what is meant by undoing the knot. It continues to become looser. Attachment will be gradually uprooted.
Not just the teaching of impermanence, but in my case, certainly the teaching of suffering also. Feeling the burn from the tightness, and seeing it for what it is: self-induced suffering to be done away with, one mindful moment at a time.