Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Suffering and relief - Part 1

Human beings want to be free of suffering.

No - this post is not about yet another technique to relieve suffering. There are many techniques out there to relieve suffering of all kinds. And they can be helpful sometimes. If you are drawn to them, then by all means go there.

This post is addressed to those among us who have already tried many techniques, and even found them helpful sometimes. This post is addressed to those among us who have found that, in the end however, no technique has put them beyond suffering. Yes, there has been occasional and temporary relief from suffering. Sometimes the relief has been longer lasting than at other times. But no matter what they try or how they approach it, the suffering visits again and again and they are not free of suffering.

We have a powerful human urge to relieve suffering, in ourselves and in others. And equally, we have a powerful human addiction to relief from suffering. Remember how it feels when a very vexing and troubling issue is cleared up? Remember the delicious relief of suffering dissolved? Of course you remember. We all remember. And we love it. And we want more of it. And more and more.

But how about some relief from relief? Any takers? :-)

The intensity of any experience, relief included, is proportional to the extent of contrast within the experience. When we go from acute distress to peace, it feels palpably different and marvelous! When we go from peace to more peace, the change is not registered so dramatically. Yes?

What we are really addicted to is the drama, - the highs and lows of experience. They make us feel alive in a glittering sort of way. In order to experience this kind of intense high, we need to experience an intense low first, for it is the contrast between the two that makes the high so dramatic. This is not just true for addictions to substance. This is true for the human addiction to experience. And while it may seem ridiculous to say that we are buying into our suffering because we are addicted to the relief from suffering, there may be more than a grain of truth there to examine, each for himself.

While we find it easy to let go of suffering, we don't find it so easy to let go of relief. While we are eager to let go of blame and guilt, we are not so eager to let go of credit and praise. But they are inextricably tied together. One can only be experienced in contrast with the other. So grasping at one thing automatically preserves the other. Grasping at praise preserves the blame. Grasping at relief preserves the suffering.

Notice I said grasping. I did not say enjoying. The difference can be stark or subtle. Only you can know what it is for you. When the sun shines, we can enjoy the sunshine. But when it changes to rain, the sunshine is not missed. When it rains, the rain can be enjoyed. When it snows, the snow can be enjoyed. Each brings its own flavor. This is enjoyment without grasping. When I want the sun to shine instead of the rain that is pouring, it is grasping. When I am anxious that it should be sunny tomorrow, it is grasping. And there is little enjoyment in it.

Again, this post is not for those who enjoy being in the game of opposites. It is indeed a wonderful game. And there is nothing wrong with the game at all. If you enjoy the game, go for it. Enjoy yourself. There is indeed an infinite variety of games to play out there, in the world of opposites.

But if you have seen that, in the end, they are all the same game, and if you just don't enjoy the game anymore, then know that you don't have to play it. You can rest. You can rest in the vastness beyond suffering and relief. Neither is needed for this rest.

Relief from suffering is great, and relief from suffering and relief is sublime. This vastness - it includes all opposites and is beyond all opposites at the same time. Rest here.

And this vastness is not dumb and this vastness is not passive.

More on this in the next post.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What am I really seeking? - Part 3

The question is: What do I really want?

Answers arise:

I want peace
I want happiness
I want fulfilment
I want love

Perhaps you found an answer similar to the ones above?

For the purpose of this post, let's just take the first one: I want peace.

By now we have seen quite conclusively that there is no such thing as a perfectly accurate prediction of what actually happens in this moment. Right?

So this moment may express itself as peace or war, as comfort or suffering, as anger or love, as hatred or joy, or anything else. Right? The truth is we don't know. So when this moment manifests disturbance or suffering of any kind, how does that relate to our wanting peace? In other words, when we want peace, how do we experience the suffering of this moment? Do we experience it as not having what we want? Check your own experience. Find out what comes up for you when you want peace and this moment brings suffering. Be totally honest with yourself. Explore gently.

If you discover that your experience is of not having what you want, then I would urge you to return to the question: What do I really want?.

You ask: Why?

Perhaps to see that this question has no answer.

Perhaps to see that whatever answer the mind comes up with will leave you wanting - either because your want shifts, (previous post), or because there is always the possibility that something may come up which is opposite to what you want.

Perhaps to see that in the very idea of your wanting something, you put it at a distance from yourself, you separate it out from you.

Perhaps to see that what you really deeply want is this moment as it is. No matter what it brings.

Perhaps to see that you are what you want.

Discover for yourself.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What am I really seeking? - Part 2

A couple of posts back, I painted a scenario where you have an opportunity to tell God what you really want from your seeking. The only condition for fulfilment is that you be very clear about what you want. Time is no bar. God is very patient. :-)

I got a few different replies, some of which were posted on this blog and others to my direct email. Thanks for your participation.

In my experience, (shared by some of you) this question itself is very clarifying. Asking yourself :What do I really want?, can cut away so much of the meandering on the seeker's journey and can really bring you into the essence of what the seeking is about. It allows what is truly important to shine amidst the rubbish pile that pretends to be equally important. Have you seen that for yourself, clearly?

Looking back, perhaps we can each remember many different desires that sprung up in the mind - I really want to have a great job, I really want to have lots of money, I really want to be appreciated and loved, and so on. Perhaps some of those desires were fulfilled, and then what happened? If I really wanted a great job and I got it, then that should have been the end of it for me, is it not? But that's not what happened. After I got the great job, I wanted to get promoted, then I wanted to run the place and so on. After I made a lot of money, I wanted still more. When I had the appreciation of one set of people, I wanted it from another set of people. This is familiar ground, is it not?

And what this shows us is that the mind is quite capable of producing wants endlessly. Within every fresh want, is the implicit promise that this will be it; this one will make us feel fulfilled. But it has not happened yet.

For some of us, this is ok. It's ok to play this game yet again. Others have reached the end of their tether. So when answers start to arise to the question of What do I really want?, bring to bear the full weight of your experience with wants, as you see those answers. Don't rush to believe the answers. Subject them to some scrutiny.

The process of questioning is far more valuable than any answers the mind may produce. This does not mean that answers that come up are irrelevant. I would suggest that some of these answers are simply part of the questioning process. They put us in touch with some of our beliefs and in that sense they are useful. I am suggesting that we don't let those answers stop the questioning process, as if it was completed by getting those answers

Let me go out on a limb here.

You will know when an answer is authentic for you, for it will bubble up from the depth of your being. And it will have an insistent quality to it. You may find that it will connect the dots between all your wants. And (and this is where it can get really icky), it may not announce itself with great fanfare! The answer to this question may simply seep into your consciousness very quietly. You may even find yourself in the odd position of holding the question in the mind, long after the answer is already known and being acted upon. Then somehow the question - which is now only a shell - will just dry up and disappear on its own. I share this only because sometimes we may miss the answer because we are expecting it to look a particular way! And it may look that way or it may not.

Yes this is the last thing that the mind wants to hear! :-) All that effort in the inquiry and no clear-cut answer to point to and grab a hold of ! What a waste of time! - says the mind. And I would only say: don't believe the mind and don't reject it. :-)

Please feel free to write in again.

I will continue with this topic in a future post.