Suffering and the dissolution of suffering
choosing practices to test through direct experience
There may arise in one’s life journey a gradual or even abrupt shift from suffering into a long and winding growth process for the dissolution of suffering. They who wonder about such matters find answers ranging from religion to metaphysics to contemporary psychology. Inexplicable mystery can often persist when techniques and practices are put to the test of direct experience. Clues to the mystery can arise during the arduous trek from a struggling ego of I/me/mine to glimpses of a deeper understanding into one’s life journey.
Meditation, contemplation and stillness of mind enable such glimpses into the mystery of suffering. Fundamental religions offer a possible answer: original sin. Some aspects of Buddhism propose that suffering in this life can arise from misdeeds in past lives, while attachment/craving/fear/greed in one’s current life can also contribute to suffering. Systems of metaphysics, as well as aspects of contemporary psychology, suggest that consciousness plays a primary causative role that can both attract and provide relief from suffering.
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Meditation cultivates the development of a highly useful skill — observing the contents of consciousness: thoughts, images, feelings, sensations, perceptions, memories and more. Becoming the witness for such observations can yield clues to the mystery of suffering. Insights arising from such reflections can enable one to cross an evolving chasm between suffering and the dissolution of suffering.
This can be accomplished by parsing the uncertain journey into four aspects: 1 awareness; 2 clarity of intention; 3 alignment of intention with action; and 4 results from that action.
Awareness: the state or ability to perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects, or sensory patterns. At this level of consciousness, sensory data [aka information] can be registered by an observing self without necessarily yielding understanding. This mode of being can, however, enable nonjudgmental observation of what is happening internally and externally. Such observation sharpens awareness as a tool for the recognition of and eventual relief from suffering.
Clarity of intention: Some common synonyms of intention are aim, design, end, goal, intent, objective, object, and purpose. While all these words mean “what one intends to accomplish or attain,” intention implies little more than what one has in mind to do or bring about. Getting clear about this increases personal power and the energy available for action. While clarity can be established via the written or spoken word, a more subtle felt sense that spontaneously arises can provide clarity for action in the moment.
Alignment of intention with action: How to develop such alignment has involved decades of exploration and experimentation by this dharma wanderer. Initially, he used affirmations over a period of several years. This did not yield sufficiently favorable results, although it did increase awareness of the issues that deserved attention and resolution. Later, after intensive training in kundalini yoga exercises, he experimented with the simultaneous combination of affirmations with repetitive movement. Direct experience proved this combination to be an effective amalgam for creating alignment between intention and action. This method is described in detail at ReadyForBetterMethod.com [[https://readyforbettermethod.com/ready-for-better-method-why-it-works/]. Be advised there is an important caution, because this method can increase personal power to the point that successful results become “ego-food”. In the absence of a compassionately wise framework for win/win living, as feelings of superiority intensify with successful results, an inflated ego can often contribute to unexpected suffering.
Results: Generating relief from suffering is more an art than a science. Many of the paths and techniques can be distilled into two primary types of meditation: mindfulness and concentration.
Mindfulness typically involves quietly sitting, observing the breath, noticing the content of consciousness as attention wanders from the breath and then intentionally bringing awareness back to the breath. This has the potential to enable a variety of insights for the experienced practitioner about the causes of one’s suffering. There can be an issue for some practitioners, however, whether any specific insight that arises is sufficient to motivate and guide effective action for the dissolution of suffering. Longer term practitioners can often achieve deep and readily available insights that can lead to effective action.
Concentration techniques can require more intensely focused attention on a single object. This can sometimes present a greater challenge than that posed by quietly observing the breath while peacefully sitting. The addition of repetitive movement adds an entirely new component to this type of concentration practice for meditation. Blending movement with affirmation or mantra brings conscious intention into the tissues, cells and microtubules of the practitioner’s body. This blending of focused attention with repetitive movement accelerates the unfolding of awareness. The growth process is enhanced by timeliness of insights and guidance for effective action, with the long term win/win goal of dissolving suffering for self and others.
An example from a recent series of incidents can illustrate a process for the dissolution of suffering that arose during a single day for the dharma wanderer who observes such matters. His body/mind/spirit complex regularly benefits from exercising his body while his mind is concentrated on rhythmically blending movement with breath.
The coastal California marine trail near his home was recently damaged by a powerful series of storms that made international headlines. Even though officials had closed most of the trail, he continued to do his brisk walk/run [HIIT] intervals in trail areas that had been closed. After state park rangers compelled him on several occasions to return to the paved road above the marine trail that was closed, he engaged them in discussion about the matter. He accepted their reasoning about the trail being temporarily closed until damage assessment could be completed and the damaged areas could be cordoned off for hikers’ safety.
His many walk/runs in such a beautiful and energizing setting contributed to his attachment for its protection, and his ensuing compliance with prominent notices of “trail closed”. He observed that some hikers failed to comply with many of these notices. As he was briskly walking on the road above a low part of the trail, he noticed it was covered by shallow water. He observed a young twenty-something couple bypassing that part of the path by stepping through higher ground, walking on the fragile plant life that had previously been off limits to knowledgeable hikers who stayed on the path when the trail was open.
He immediately puckered, felt emotion arising, then angrily yelled, “You’re not supposed to walk on those plants!” The athletic young man, looking lean, fit and strong, yelled back, “It’s wet here!” The dharma protector of the marine trail yelled louder, “You’re not supposed to walk on those plants!” The young man yelled back, “Shut your eff-ing mouth!” This repeated with the same yells by each of them as the verbal conflict and anger escalated. Finally, as he recognized the futility of the altercation (and the size of his verbal combatant), he relented and continued his movement on the road above the trail. Even so, he could feel unhealthy biochemical residues of the intense anger coursing through his body.
As he briskly walked, he reflected on the incident, came to a degree of awareness about his responsibility for the conflict, then said aloud, “I created that from my judgment! I yelled angrily at them.” More steps while reflecting, then more self-talk, “How could I have handled that differently?” More steps as the answer to his question arose in his awareness. “I could have spoken more kindly and asked a question rather than yelling my judgement of them. I could have calmly asked, ‘Are you aware that part of the trail is closed and those plants are protected?’ ” More steps. “That would have been a better approach.” He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. This enabled him to enter a calmer and more stable state as he continued his walk/run down the road to Asilomar State Beach.
Believing the incident was internally dissolved [even though it wasn’t], he remembered the exceptionally long line of parked cars on the side of the road above the Asilomar Conference Center. That morning he had asked someone about why so very many cars. The simple answer he received was, “EcoFarm Conference.”
Rather than returning on his route from home to the Conference Center and back, instead he felt a curiosity pull to enter the conference grounds. When he entered the main building he inquired how to obtain a program description. The receptionist pointed in the direction of a very large temporary rectangular tent structure. He entered the structure with the intention to simply obtain a program description, but was surprised by an unexpectedly large number of exhibits organized in neat rows.
Among what seemed to be close to a hundred exhibits, he stopped at several exhibits that seemed relevant for spontaneously promoting Joe Brewer’s earth regeneration and reforestation activities. In the last row he was surprised to see a Peace Corps exhibit about community development for family farms, an activity that seemed to resonate with Joe’s ambitious intentions. He made an elevator pitch for Joe to the representative at the exhibit whose business card indicated he had served as a volunteer in Ecuador. The Peace Corps rep listened intently with a smile. After receiving the business card, the dharma wanderer felt his heart open and energy move through his body. This led him to reach out with a smile, saying “gimme a hug”. They embraced briefly in authentic resonance.
As he left the exhibition tent, he felt noticeably energized and uplifted by the serendipitous discovery of an opportunity to be of service, especially so after the unpleasant aggressive altercation less than hour earlier. He began his return home on the road above the state beach and noticed an older short and heavy white haired woman wearing a black sweatshirt with large white letters. It had a sad meme: “Make Life Suck Less.” After they had passed each other for several steps, he spontaneously turned around and said, “Hey, I have a suggestion for you.” She stopped and faced him, awaiting his comment, so he moved closer to her. As he visibly read her sweatshirt meme, the suggestion spontaneously came to him, “Send energy from your heart out your head in a bubble of light to protect this area.” Looking up into his eyes, she acknowledged his suggestion with a smile. He said to her, “gimme a hug.” No longer strangers, they embraced.
When he returned home and began his post exercise stretching routine, he was surpised by unpleasant images of the previous altercation arising in his awareness. Memory of his own anger and images of the angry man yelling remained. They had not been dissolved. This stimulated further meditative action using brief visualization to achieve dissolution of the negative energy. He took a deep breath. As he exhaled he imagined blue light leaving his heart and encircling the young man. After repeatedly holding this intentional visualization for awhile, he shifted his awareness to pleasant memories of his brief interaction with the Peace Corps rep, followed by his brief positive encounter with the older lady. This left him feeling completely cleansed of that day’s judgmental anger and positively energized for an unfolding future.
It was a good day for awareness, reflection, discovery and action.