Sunday, October 21, 2018

Acceptance and Discretionary Suffering

     The core of meditation practice IMHO is carefully investigating the difference between unavoidable vs discretionary suffering: investigating how we can minimize our tendency to unwittingly cause LOTS of unnecessary problems for ourself & those around us.
     A reasonable starting point is Reinhold Niebuhr's "serenity prayer":
          Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
          courage to change the things I can;
          and wisdom to know the difference. 

     Let's look at the rather large & often frustrating "things I cannot change" category. Many people suffering with chronic pain, as well as a variety of mental health issues including addictions, can potentially benefit greatly from the following teaching:

     “Accepting and releasing into just what is, is the homeopathy of Zen. Being willing to settle into just this experience – this is the teaching of saying yes to our life, not giving in to thoughts of another life. We learn that our resistance strengthens whatever we want to avoid.
     Trying on the attitude of yes is the not-knowing mind, whereas the conditioned mind creates conditions. This is too much (or not enough). No way am I going to stay in this situation. The not-knowing mind is willing to know and feel whatever is happening.
     Recently I was thinking about a difficult situation in my life, trying to find a way to make it acceptable. For days I would think about it, invite my mind to reimagine it in a less painful way. After weeks of trying, I realized, I’m helpless. I can’t solve this by myself: I just have to be it. That realization was an enormous relief. Like Ram Dass saying, I’m going to be on this train forever, I settled into my own circumstances: There isn’t anything I can do about this situation. There is no way to escape it. I must live with it and let it become digested and transformed internally on its own. Thinking I had to solve the problem became the problem.”
        Katherine Thanas. “The Truth of This Life. Zen Teachings on Loving the World as It Is.” Shambhala, 2018.

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