| Tuesday, November 15, 2005
| TIMELESS TRUTHS
|Burdened by the complexities of moren life? An ancient philosophical tradition --- Based on FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS === may hold the answers you seek.
Part of the appeal of Eastern philosophies in general, and the Four Noble Truths in particular, is that they provide an integrative, inclusinve, and time-proven alternative to the overwhelming array of disjointed self-help plans currently being offered for everything from relationships and money to body and business. The Four Noble Truths offer an elegant approach that can be applied to any daily circumstance.
*** Theory and Practice.
The Four Noble Truths aren't meant to be a dogma or a creed to believe in. Rather, this Buddhist philosphpy is a tool designed to help people move more gracefully, concieously and deliberately through their lives. The concepts, taken together, produce a perspective that can help us with virtually any situation -- from a self-image-busting bike accident to the demise of a relationship or the loss of a loved one. These same truths also offer a pragmatic practice for responding to, say, stress at work or a derailed excercise goal.
Based on the ancient diagnostic model of Ayurvedic medicine,hte Four Noble Truths are rooted in a four-setp process; diagnosis, etiology, prognosis and prescription.
First, we have to realize that we've got a problem or an illness, In teh case of the Four Noble Truths, this called Dukkha, meaning "wrong space" Dukkha is most often translated as "suffering", but it includes discomfort, dissatisfaction and stress. Reconginzing that you are in a place of suffering is the first step toward shifting your experience.
Next, we figure out the case of our stress. This is essential, because if we donot understand the roots of the illness, we have little clue about how -- and even if -- the problem can be treated.
Once we've recognized our problem and figured out what caused it, we can determine whether (or to waht extent) our suffering can be ended.
FInally, we offered the therapeutic means to end our stress. This treatment is known as the Noble Eightfold Path. Following it leads to freedomg from suffering.
"We have to realte the Four Noble Truths to our own experience as individual human beings." says one of the Buddhism's most respected teachers, the Dalai Lama, in a Simple Path (Thorsons Publishers, 2003). "It is a fact -- a natural fact of life -- that each one of us has an innage desire to seek happiness and to overcome suffering ....So, if this aspiration to achieve happiness and overcome suffering is our natural state of being, and our natural quest, the question is how we shoul go about fulfilling that aspiration."
The Four Noble Truths, in effect, provide a clear, consistent and realatively simple, framework for the pursuit of happiness -- a quest that, at one point or another, most of us find elusive, even maddening, and bewilderingly complex.
THE FIRST NOBLE TRUTH.
Bad stuff happens. That's the First Noble Truth, which is more fomally explained asthepresence of Dukkha, or suffering. According to Buddhist teachings, it's better to accept that bad things happen rather than to deny our discomfort. Unpleasant circumstacnes aren't fated, and they aren't a punishment. But we're ofgen tempted to believe that we somehow deserve the bad stuff that life dishes up. That way of thinking is, itself a major cause of suffering.
What is Sufering? It could be a mild bellyache or a pianful tooh. Suffering is feeling cold on a long winter night; it's also enduring the ravages of cancer or heart disease. Mental imbalances such as depression, anger, loneliness, anxiety or the many ways we feel psychological and emotinal distress -- they're all suffering.
So is the disappointment we feel at not getting something we desperately wanted, getting something we did'nt want or losing something we value. And suffering can eb the more subtle existential sense of boredom, alienation, angst, humiliation,m or the plain ld dissatisfaction that seems to arise whenever we're not busy with our daily distractions.
The practice of the First Noble Truth is to clearly see suffering as suffering. If we deny our unease, not only can we not do anything about it, but this denial itslef also contributes to still greater feelings of discomfort and unrest.
We tend to distance ourselves from life's ills through all sorts of coping mechanism, from indulgence in food, alcohol and sex to too much exercise, work and other forms of distraction. Our first challenge in working with suffering is to acknowledge that we are wuffering and to make the acknowledgement with kidnness and compassion -- not by judging or feeling shame about it.
Suffering is part of life as we live it. The noble aspect of this tyruth comes from learning to face that suffering with courage. From there, we have the chance to break free from the suffering. Ironically, when we attempt to turn away from it, we also turn away from the path that can bring an end to the unease.
The pragmatic practice of the First Noble Truth is to learn to recognize your own suffering. Ask yourself:
* In what areas of my life an I dissatisfied?
* When do I tense up? What causes that?
* What circumstances cause me to become judgmental and harsh?
* When am I resistant to ned ideas, people and suggestions?
THE SECOND NOBLE TRUTH.
Once we've figured out that we are in themiddle of a bad situation, we need to find out why we're there. What causes us to suffer? According to the Second Nbole Truth, four things, called nutriments, can cause and perpetrate our suffeing: food, senses, intent and mindset.
FOOD. We all know that certain foods are simply not good for us. But our relationship with food may also cause us to suffer -- to feel ashamed, self-recriminating or out of control. Who among us has'nt indulged in emotional eating, unrestrained gluttony or obsessive dieting at some point? Food keeps us alive, but our physical sustenance -- and the relationship we have with it -- can also be the source of a great deal of suffering. And in the worst cases, our relationship with food can get so out of whack that it can result in a life threatening eating disorder. It's for these reasons that conscoiousness about food is such an essential component of mindfulness in general.
SENSES. What we take in through our senses is, in essence, food for our consciousness. So this relationshp can be just a challenging as the one we have with the food we eat. Buddhists ask us to examine what we see, ehar and do that might cause us suffering. For instance, we might take a more critical look at advertising, which typically trades on the notion that we are inherently lacking,and if we only had the "new and improved" things, we'd finally be happy. Similarly, movies and video games with violent images, some researchers have found, take a toll on our emotional state. And music that brings us down or degrades us is no healthier that that bag of trans-fat-laden potato chips.
INTENT. The motivations behind our actions can also be a cause of our suffering. Why do we do the things that we do? Having harmful intentions, of course, rarely leads to positive outcomes. But even well-meaning, wholesome activities, like yoga, exercise and reading, can be fueled by less-than-empowering intents or assumptions ( a compulsive need to prove something to others, for exampke, or a desperate desire to make oneself "ok"). If you push yourself to attain some idealized fitness or career goal, for instance, at the expense of your good relationships or your present health, then even your best intentions could become the seed of suffering. At the very least, wrong intent might nourish overweeining pride, egoism and arrogance -- all of which can lead to suffering.
MINDSET. Consciousness itself can be a soruce of suffering. Our mindset develops fom all our past actions and thoughts. A collection of aphoristic teachings of the Buddha compiled in teh book Dhammapada (Shambala 2005) states : "All experience is preceded by mind, led by mind, made by mind. Speak or act with a peaceful mind, and happiness follows like a never departing shadow". So, too, does suffering folow a mind that is not at peace.
Until we pay attentuon daily to the nutriments we choose, we tend to blindly cling to what we think will give happiness and satisfaction. We resist that which is painful, or appears to be painful. And we ignore everything else in between. The Second Noble Truth suggests that we pay attention to our choices. As you begin this practice, ask yourself:
* What thoughts, habits,a ctions and intents contribute to my negativity?
* Am I suffering because I am attached to certain ideas, objects or people?
* How am I fanning the flames of my own suffering?
THE THIRD NOBLE TRUTH.
The good news in the Four Noble Truths is that we have the option to be happy, and we can exercise that option -- right now. According to the Third Nboble Truth, we can break our bad habits, and we can build up our good ones. We can cultivate a deeper and more stable snese of well being. The Key? Seeing and believing that by simply noticing the things in our lives that bring us joy or give us feeling or peace, we can actively emphasize and expand them. By fully enjoying even the simplest moments -- sitting peacefully, breathign deeply -- you can pwerfully enhance yoru sense of well-being and satisfaction.
Washing the dishes, for instance, may create a sense of order in your kitchen that brings more peaceful feeling to the place. Or you might discover, while walking through yoru neighborhood or a nearby park, that lush trees and plants give you a sense of joy by connecting you to nature.
To begin to cultivate well-being, examine your life choices and attitudes, and imagine how they might be different. For your practice:
* Ask yourself what the consequences of making different choices might be.
* Cultivate joy and well-being by looking into what brings you joy and by paying more focused attention to those things.
* At the end of every day, make a list of 10 things that broguht you joy that day.
* Take time to notice and appreaicte the simple delights we often overlook: the smile on a baby's face, the first sip of te in the morning, the star-filled night sky.
THE FOURTH NOBLE TRUTH.
The Fourth Noble Truth is the daily practice of easing our suffering. The path of practice, known as the Noble Eightfold Path, is the course of action suggested by Buddhist teachings. Rather than reacting automatically from old habits, and patterned behaviours, we can choose to respond differently to our situations, thus transforming our lives. The eight aspects of this path include understanding, ethical life choices and meditative practices:
1). SKILLFUL VIEW is the understanding of suffering, it's causes and how it ended. It is the practice of seeing things as they are and letting go of our notions of how it's all "supposed" to be.
2). SKILLFUL THINKING is the practicse of examination -- of our motives, our thoughts and our habits -- and the resolve to move in the direction of greater happiness. Our unhappiness often comes from misconceptions. Next time you find yourself assuming the worst about a colleague, ask yourwelf, "Am I sure about this?" The practice of periodically stopping to ask, "What am I doing"? can also bring us back to present moment, so that we can pay attention to what is real rather than mere thoughts.
3). SKILLFUL SPEECH invovles speaking honestly, clearly and constructively, while avoiding lying, slandering, gossiping or indulging in any form of abusive speech (including that negative running commentary in your head).
4). SKILLFUL ACTION includes all action that lessens suffering and cultivates happiness, not just for us, but for toehr people.
5). SKILLFUL LIVELIHOOD is lving in such a way (whether at work or at play) that we don't harm others or ourselves.
6). SKILLFUL EFFORT involves consciously cultivating a wholesome, focused direction of mental and physical energy while refraining from nourishing any unwholesome thoughts or endeavors.
7). SKILLFUL MINDFULNESS means paying attention to how we engage the people and circumstances around us from moment to moment. It includes how we respond to our various states of mind. It is also noticing how we feel in our bodies, whether those feelings are pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.
8). SKILLFUL CONCEPTION is a deepening of mindfulness so that we are calm, focused and relaxed in our daily life, no matter what comes our way.
Next time you find yourself caught in mental anguish -- try some of the pragmatic approaches to dealing with your stress: Focus on your breath, stay aware of your boduly sensations, and notice your thoguhts and feelings, but don't get caught up in them. From this space of renewed clarity, give yourself a chance to practice another way of thinking, speaking or acting.
The philosphy of the Four Noble Truths takes into account that we are sometimes fragile and sometimes vulnerable. It gives us a guide for getting beyond both of our suffering and life's inevitable humiliations - our falls, our heartbreaks, our illnesses, our bodies eventual demise.
In our culture, we tend to automatically, think of suffering as something shameful. But the elegant philosophy of the Four Noble Truths helps us see things differently: We all fall, ache and ail; that's as much as part of being human as breathing. By facing our challenges and choosing to respond more compassionate and joyful.
(SOURCE: Frank Jude Boccio /Mindfulness Yoga: The Awakened Union of Breath, Body and Mind. EXPERIENCE MAG/ websites: www.accesstoinsight.com - www.dharma.org)
|posted by infraternam meam @ 11:56 AM