Liberation From Suffering

Christmas-holiday-shopping-season-1024x576

Suffering during the Holiday Season

Expectations run high for the perfect Hallmark/Netflix Christmas, which sets us up for disappointment. Our coping skills are diminished by lack of focus. We are exhausted by the rush and absorb negative energies from crowds of people with the same expectations and disappointments. So, drawn into the circus, we suffer. But we don’t have to suffer.
I find help in these simple truths from Buddhism and from the call of Christian mystics to let go and empty ourselves from disquieting ego attachments. Catching a few moments of silent solitude here and there help me to refocus when I feel drawn into the circus. My mantra becomes

Breathing in, I am free.
Breathing out, I release suffering.

We are all in this together. Good luck!

The Buddhist Concept of Suffering

Four Noble Truths of Buddhism
by Ron Kurtus (revised 10 June 2017)

The basis of Buddhism is a doctrine known as the Four Noble Truths.

The First Truth is that all life is suffering, pain, and misery. The Second Truth is that this suffering is caused by selfish craving and personal desire. The Third Truth is that this selfish craving can be overcome. The Fourth Truth is that the way to overcome this misery is through the Eightfold Path.

The Four Noble Truths is a fundamental concept taught by the Buddha.

Four Noble Truths

Suffering exists
Suffering arises from attachment to desires
Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases
Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path

1. Suffering exists

The viewpoint is that life consists of suffering and dissatisfaction. This suffering is called dukkha. Human nature is imperfect, as is the world you live in. During your lifetime, you inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death. This is especially true for poor people. This means you are never able to keep permanently what you strive for. Happy moments pass by, and soon you will too.

2. Suffering arises from attachment to desires.

The cause of suffering is called samudaya or tanha. It is the desire to have and control things, such as craving of sensual pleasures. For example, if you desire fame and fortune, you will surely suffer disappointment and perhaps even cause suffering for others. Attachment to material things creates suffering because attachments are transient and loss is inevitable. Thus suffering will necessarily follow.

3. Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases

The end to suffering is called nirodha. It is achieving Nirvana, which is the final liberation of suffering. The mind experiences complete freedom, liberation and non-attachment. It lets go of any desire or craving. It is attaining dispassion. Nirvana means freedom from all worries, troubles and ideas. It is not comprehensible for those who have not attained it.

4. Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path.

In order to end suffering, you must follow the Eightfold Path. This liberation from suffering is what many people mean when they use the word “enlightenment.”
The path to the end of suffering is gradually seeking self-improvement through the eight elements. The path to the end of suffering can extend over many lifetimes, throughout which every individual rebirth is subject to karmic conditioning. Craving, ignorance and other effects will disappear gradually, as progress is made through each lifetime.

Eightfold path

There are eight attitudes or paths you must follow to find freedom from suffering. These are the “right” or correct things to do in your life:
Right view
Right intention
Right speech
Right action
Right livelihood
Right effort
Right mindfulness
Right concentration
This is the way to reach Nirvana.

Summary

The Four Noble Truths is the basis of Buddhism. The First Truth is that all life is suffering, pain, and misery. The Second Truth is that this suffering is caused by selfish craving and personal desire. The Third Truth is that this selfish craving can be overcome. The Fourth Truth is that the way to overcome this misery is through the Eightfold Path.

http://www.school-for-champions.com/religion/buddhism_four_noble_truths.htm#.WjaDDHqIbMK

 

Photo Credit: http://www.mitchmiles262.com/2016/12/smartphones-and-holiday-shopping/

Advertisements

Grief and the Grind of Suffering

I offer this poem as solidarity with friends and followers who experience great loss and suffering at this time.  Recently a line from BBC’s “Call the Midwife” stunned me.  The nurse said to a grieving wife, “We just keep on living until we are alive again.” This.

 

stepping out with blue border

 

Dawn

Lynn Schooler DAWN

 

DAWN

Flecks of sunglow
Penetrate
The long-chilled backbone of
My soul,
Thawing teardrops caught
In transit.

Spirit-inspired dawn spawns
Hope
Drawn from the integrity of
Living winter well.

© rita h kowats Spring 2014

 

Photo Credit:  https://www.facebook.com/lynn.schooler

I am grateful to Lynn Schooler for permission to use this exquisite photo experience of today’s dawn in Juneau Alaska.  You have a rich experience awaiting you at his facebook page.  Thank you, Lynn.

“Invictus” February 11, 1990

mandela

In July of 1990 I was released from a county jail on an island after serving ten days as a federal prisoner for illegal trespass  on a naval subase to raise concsiousness about possession and deployment of nuclear weapons.  I was inmate number four in a cell block intended for three.  Constant chatter, and piped in heavy metal music from the likes of The Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne, provided a fitting backdrop for drug dealers, identity thieves and pacifists.  Or so they thought.  I coped by sitting on the floor against the gray cinder block wall and breathing myself to an inner world beyond the mayhem.  “You’re meditating, aren’t you?  Cool.  What ya in for?” my companions asked.  One day they brought in a sorry excuse for library books, one of them scarred with horrific racial slurs.  I slipped it to the guard and asked her to remove it.  She did.  Ten days passed quickly.  It was nothing.

On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from Robben Island Prison in South Africa after surviving twenty-seven years.  It was a sacred and unbelievable survival.  One wall of his tiny cell had been painted white to reflect the blazing South African sun.  Mandela walked out partially blinded.  This was one of their more subtle tortures.  With concentrated effort, I could shut out mayhem for ten days.  I didn’t suffer constant torture and debasement.  It was nothing.  Mandela held onto these words from the poem, “Invictus” to hold him together in his suffering.  While they could touch his body, they could not touch his soul, if he did not allow it.  I am in awe of his strength and commitment.  Amanda!

Invictus – the poem

by William Earnest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud,
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

photo credit:  http://www.scmp.com/news/world/article/1374898/nelson-mandelas-struggle-freedom-inspired-world

Adaptations of the Soul

4187-4457

While looking for food, a nomad in the Namib Desert might see this little Fringe-Toed Lizard doing his gymnastics to survive the otherwise unsurvivable heat.  He lifts one appendage at a time, removing it momentarily from the sand’s heat.  At noon he will burrow into the cooler sand beneath the surface.  At dawn our nomad would enjoy the cool mist blowing in from the ocean, and with many other plants and animals, sip from its moisture left on leaves.  The Sidewinder snake adapts its behavior by heaving  its body across the sand, touching down in only two places at a time.

Adapting.  And how do we human beings adapt our souls to meet the overwhelming challenges thrown at us by our environment?  Like these desert animals, we are a resilient lot.  We survive and we often thrive.  Adaptation of the soul is analagous to adaptation to environments; however, unlike other animals, we can make choices- choices which get us and others into dire situations, and choices which redeem us.  Apartheid imprisoned Nelson Mandella for twenty-eight years, and his spirit adapted and thrived.  I can only conjecture about the details of Mandella’s adaptation.  You have developed your ways of adapting to spiritual challenges, to “The Dark Night of the Soul,” as John of the Cross called it.  These choices have redeemed me at times:

1.  Be Faithful

To mantras that focus me, affirmations, rituals, other prayer forms.

2.  Be Helpful

Seek out viable and positive service opportunities.  Service takes us out of ourselves.

3.  Be Creative

Paint, draw, write, compose music, play music)  Creative activity often puts us into an altered state where we can forget our despair for a while, and unite with the Other.

4.  Be Communal

Talk with a spiritual guide or trusted friend.

These adaptations get me through the heat of the day:  Old truths embedded in a new metaphor.

The Ice Holds A Year Later

Stepping Out  Jpeg double sized

For Mary

One year after the unexpected death of my sister I still step gingerly.  When we grieve we learn that all we CAN do is step out.  If we step in harmony with the pain, we become sure-footed.  The pain transforms from foe to friend, and we endure in spite of the loss.

My spiritual practice has been intentionality.  I ask for the grace to stay conscious, to recognize each wave of grief and to honor my humanity by feeling it.  It has also helped me to be aware of my sister’s continued presence in a new way.  I have prayed for her spirit as she transitions into this new and unknown existance.  And I have practiced letting her go.

Two gifts have emerged from this experience:  reinforcement that the ice holds, and realization that we are not in control.  Now I try to live into these truths, and to be in solidarity with others who grieve.

2006, poss, Mary feeding lambs

Geography of the Soul

Geography of the Soul

In an effort to protect our egos, we leave in our wake, a destructive landscape of regret.  Our acts of protection are as much an animal response as protecting their physical lives is for other animals.  The difference, of course, is that we can strengthen our egos sufficiently to withstand attacks and move beyond them for the sake of the common good.  The process of moving beyond ego creates a soul-landscape rich in variety.  Remnants of ego caught on jagged crags, conjure memories of lies to self and others; charred skeletons of timber stand in witness to courageous suffering endured, and hopeless suffering self-inflected.

Our soul’s geography resembles the terrain of active volcanoes years after they have exploded. Destructive lava flow has given way to affluent bursts of bold, bright, wildflowers- the acts of justice and compassion sown as seeds alongside germs of ego.  Patches of green miraculously inch their way through the bowl of impenetrable metamorphic rock.

Just as rock can be intrinsically altered by the flow of hot lava, so is the soul dramatically altered by the movement of the Spirit, and our response to her. If we trust the Spirit, and trust ourselves to grapple with our instinct to protect our egos, seedlings will dot the horizon.  Wildflowers, once extirpated by fear, will burst forth like fireworks on Independence Day.

I recommend frequent road trips through the terrain of our souls.