Entering in to suffering

Listen to the Audio or read the transcript below.

Consider a diamond. What words come to mind when we think of a diamond? Expensive, hard, sparkling, engagement, cutting, beauty etc. Some of the words are related to how the diamond appears but many of them are associated with what we infer and associate with the diamond. So this is showing how our mind embellishes what we initially see. What we actually see is something sparkly, transparent, colours refracted, tiny reflections etc. So there is nothing visibly to do with value or engagement. This is all inferred. We can’t even ‘see’ hardness. That is only revealed if we touch the diamond. But when we see the diamond, we feel the hardness because of the embellishment from our minds. It is this process that we need to go into with mindfulness. We can understand this on an academic level but we’ve got to actually feel the process going on. The perception, we need to separate out and then feel the mind embellishing the object. 

If we look purely at the visual, then a dew drop has very similar characteristics to the diamond. It is just as pretty and has similar light refracting and reflecting properties. If the diamond was fashioned in to a bead, the two would be identical. But if we understood and labelled the dew drop as a diamond, the minds embellishment would attach value and the nature of hardness to it. 

With this practice it helps us to see how we mentally react and embellish in all aspects of our life. Including the areas that cause us suffering. Our suffering is not as a result of the things that happen to us, it is the result of our reaction to the things that happen to us. This is embellishment from the mind that is causing this. 

So consider the simplicity of a diamond and all the embellishment we wrap around it. Then move on to a rather more complex object. A person. Just think of all of the embellishment we wrap around a person. Even when we meet someone for the first time, our minds start to categorise and make assumptions about that person based on people we have seen before. We start to decide if they are professional, trustworthy, lazy or hardworking, conceited etc and they haven’t even told us their name yet. Of course they are working the same way towards us. When people reveal their prejudices about us, to us, we feel anger. But we do just the same to everyone we meet! 

So the practice of mindfulness here is exceptionally important. Otherwise, we never allow ourselves to meet the true person. 

The minds behaviour if often described as a mirror. It shows us what the minds idea of the world is. Not the actual world. Which is tricky, because the only reason we can perceive the world is because of mind!

But why DOES this cause us suffering? The suffering we are talking about here is Dukkha. Unfortunately some people do have to cope with chronic pain in their lives. But this is not what we are talking about here. Dukkha is roughly translated as the general unsatisfactory-ness of everyday life. So the suffering caused by sitting in traffic when we are heading home from a busy day. The worry caused by a comment made by a friend or acquaintance when we don’t know the context or reason. The anxiety caused by the lack of Wifi in our hotel (ridiculous I know, but for some people this is a very serious issue)

The process sitting behind all of this is the exact same process as the diamond. The minds interpretation and embellishment. 

So by practicing mindfulness we start to feel this process happening in our minds. We can then bring to bear all of our meditation practice. We spot the embellishment and we spot the emotions that arise as a result. We spot the resultant tension and holding behaviour in our belies as that emotion manifests. We then work on all this to bring an attitude of softening and compassion to our bodies. More importantly we start to catch our minds as they start to embellish and literally stop the process happening in its tracks. So we see what is presented to us, rather than our own mirror. 

Of course, our meditation is the practice of developing this mental habit of mind-watching so that we do actually do the mindfulness! 

Today’s meditation, we will use the mindfulness of breathing to mind watch and notice our reactions to meditation. We are cutting down a lot of our sensory input in meditation so we are very much simplifying the situation. It is therefore much easier to stay mindful and watch our mental reactions during the meditation. To see how we push things away during the meditation and how this causes us to feel frustrations. To ask ourselves why we can’t make progress. Slowly, through practice we lessen our reactions and when we achieve that we discover the deep bliss of insight and understanding.