Saturday, May 25, 2019

Processing Suffering

     We all sense varying degrees of chronic dys-ease: anxiety, lack, hunger, inadequacy, guilt. We never seem to be able to clearly identify the specific cause. Therefore not surprisingly, despite our constant striving towards comfort, lasting relief remains elusive. A "low-grade neurosis called normality" or "ordinary unhappiness" is obviously a central, universal human itch. Many of us mistakenly assume that everyone else is fairly consistently happy, and if we were only "normal" we too would be living a life-long river boat cruise commercial.
     Below is a surprisingly helpful (if a tad scholarly) insight derived from Western psychology, Western philosophy, and thousands of years of Buddhist meditation experience. 
     In summary, what can actually help us with this universal dys-ease is seeing our situation as clearly as possible, fully accepting and staying with unavoidable discomfort until it resolves. In fully meeting ('physically processing' or 'being intimate with') life's constant, mostly uncontrollable, often uncomfortable & at times frightening aspects, we learn to release our many illusions (of control, of certainty, of solidity, of identity, of everything) and instead, learn to peacefully abide in not-knowing, in groundlessness. 
     "Finally, the mind comes to rest in its natural state: the ground from which both conscious and ordinary subconscious events arise." B. Alan Wallace

     “… the Buddhist path is nothing other than a way to resolve our sense of lack. Since there was no primeval offense and no expulsion from the Garden, there is nothing that needs to be gained. Our lack turns out to be the sense that there is a lack, which does not mean we can simply deny or try to ignore that sense. For Buddhism our problem turns out to be paradoxical. The actual problem is our deeply repressed fear that our groundlessness / nothing-ness is a problem. When I stop trying to fill up that hole at my core by vindicating or realizing myself in some symbolic way, something can happen to it, and to me.  
     This is easy to misunderstand, for the letting go that is necessary is not directly accessible to consciousness. The ego cannot absolve its own lack because the ego is the other side of that lack. In terms of life and death, the ego is that which believes itself to be alive and fears death; hence the ego, although only a mental construction, will face its imminent disappearance with horror. Uncovering that repression, recovering the denial of death for consciousness, requires the courage to suffer. Our struggle against death is usually redirected into symbolic games of competition, as the urge to defeat our opponent or at least be a little better than our neighbor. To free us from the paralysis of death-in-life, the energy that is distorted into such symptomatic activities must be translated back into its more original form, the terror of death, and that terror endured (there’s nothing one can do with it except be conscious of it and bear it.). … the Buddhist path is not resoluteness but simple awareness, which Buddhist meditation cultivates. One does not do anything with that anguish except develop the ability to dwell in it or rather as it; then the anguish, having nowhere else to direct itself, consumes the sense of self. Since the sense of lack is the other pole of the sense of self – tails to its head, but one coin – primordial lack-as-anguish devours not only the ego-self but itself.  

     The point is neither to flee from the pure-guilt-as-anguish by objectifying it in some fashion, nor to identify with it by abasing oneself, but to let it burn itself out, like a fire that exhausts its fuel, which in this case is the sense of self. If we cultivate the ability to dwell as it, then ontological guilt, finding nothing else to be guilty for, consumes the sense of self and thereby itself as well. Since this devours one’s compensatory self-importance, one becomes a completely ordinary person, who feels no different from anyone else and no need to be different from anyone else. … this is the end of experiencing our existence as a burden to be shouldered, inasmuch as the heavy weight of life originates in the need to secure or vindicate ourselves. According to Buddhism, the ego-as-lack dissolves in the experience of one’s true nature as a groundlessness that has nothing to gain and nothing to lose, and is therefore free.”

       David R. Loy. “Lack & Transcendence. The Problem of Death and Life in Psychotherapy, Existentialism, and Buddhism.” Wisdom Publications, 2018.

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