Thursday, 6 August 2009

Dare You Plunge in the Knife?

Don't worry - in spite of the picture, I don't mean to kill yourself. I am referring to those times of deep emotional upheaval - when a loved one lies ill or dying, when a child is lost, when a lover goes, when dreams die, when hopes are killed. If you're lucky, you will never have to face those situations in life, but unfortunately most of us do. And it is better to know how to deal with it BEFORE we actually get into that situation.

This post reflects the heart of this favourite saying in Buddhism:

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

Those situations which I have described do happen. Even if they don't, everyone will have some experience of a personal fear. And when the time comes for reality and dreams to go at loggerheads, reality always wins.

So what's the solution?

Jump into the tidal wave of emotion completely. Give yourself up to it. Don't try to use justification or thought to turn it around. Experience the grief and the pain, but do not think about it. Just experience it. You will know you are turning it into a story if you suddenly feel like the victim. Or if you feel like blaming someone, or even life. Or if you feel you can't bear the pain, because while the pain may be real, the story that you can't bear it isn't.

Most stop right at the point of really plunging in the knife. It's conditioning, and I can understand it. But folks, seriously, quit being wimps. It's like holding a knife and testing the sharpness and cutting yourself slightly and saying I don't think I can do this. And we can get really upset doing it. It is the resistance that is really causing the suffering. If we plunge the knife straight in, we find that it is healing, for it cuts through the dreams and illusions, and free us from our cages of thought. Painful? Yes. But if you can hold to the pain of the experience and resist the temptation to think about it, to avoid it somehow, then you have played a trick on death. You will have cheated it of its power to cause suffering, for in embracing it it has no more power to threaten you.

It is conditioning that prevents us from doing this, but consider: In situations of extreme grief, most people use thought, conscious or unconscious, to avoid the pain. No one ever thinks of using the pain to avoid thought. And thought, by a long, long shot, is the one that will cause the most suffering. You go into the emotion, it disperses, and you move on. You go into the thought, it anchors, and congratulations, you get to carry it for the rest of your life. Apparently horrific, but that's the way it goes.

Dare you plunge in the knife?

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