I’ve been thinking about the teachings in my meditation class this past Monday. Buddhism starts with the concept of suffering. From courses I’d taken in college I knew about the Buddhist concept of The Four Noble Truths: The nature of life is suffering. Our desire for pleasure and our aversion to pain create more suffering. Relinquishing craving reduces suffering. And the way to the cessation of suffering is The Noble Eightfold Path.
Essentially, we suffer because life is impermanent and imperfect. We try to seek pleasure and avoid pain and the more we do this, the more we suffer. The answer is to stop doing this. And the Buddha figured out how.
But there is a difference between philosophical knowing and experience, my teacher said. If we think about following the breath we are being philosophical. If we can really follow the breath, we are experiencing a moment of mindfulness which will increase our awareness. “This is an on-the-job training of how to work with suffering,” he said. “We have to consciously know what our pain is.”
He referred back to the comments made by students at the first class about wanting to quiet the mind, calm a busy life, deal with our inability to pay attention to the present moment. This is the suffering. Our dissatisfaction with everyday life is the suffering the Buddha was talking about. Oh. I have that.
This is the way Buddhism works. It doesn’t work by trying to pray yourself out of a situation. It works by looking at the causes of our pain and the ways we can remove those causes…We keep trying to jack up the volume of life, but underneath it is the deep sorrow. Turn down the volume and deal with the sorrow. How bad is it? You realize, I can deal with it. This capacity holds the whole key to making life harmonious.
It’s not all bad. Just as we avoid the unpleasant in our mind, we miss being aware of much that is pleasant. The more simple you are with each sensation, he said, the more beauty you will be aware of.