It’s natural to strongly identify with our emotions and thoughts, especially when thinking (or feeling) something should be different than it actually is.
“There is nothing wrong with the way the body is. It’s not the body that causes suffering, it’s wrong thinking.” — Ajahn Chah, Theravada Thai Forest Monk
I’m guessing, throughout the day, you think about how you’d like something changed with your body; I cannot be the only one who does. Right now, my aching knee is making writing exceptionally challenging because I’m having a hard time getting comfortable.
“Nothing is fundamentally a problem except our identification with it.” — Pema Chödrön, Tibetan Buddhist Nun
Perhaps you heard California recently experienced a lot of flooding due to an atmospheric river dumping an incredible amount of rain in a very short period of time. Homes, businesses, roadways and people’s assets were destroyed. Conditions from successive and severe winter storms, flooding and landslides even initiated the request and approval for an emergency declaration by President Biden.
Flooding is not uncommon here in California, other parts of the United States or the rest of the world.
Is the changing state of the raging river, resulting from the natural fall of rain, the problem? No, it’s our view of the effects that triggers the problem.
Our cravings and attachments, as well as our aversions and disgusts, create our suffering. This is the premise of Buddha’s teachings. Actually, our ignorance of seeing things just as they are is the deeper root of the problem masking true peace.
For example, accepting the river being a river instead of a wrecking machine and my knee simply being a knee in pain, instead of an ornery writing obstacle, lightens the monkey mind and minimizes misery.
Let’s make this practical
Think about something upsetting you right now. Name the upset by saying: I’m upset because __________________________________________________________ (fill in the blank).
A Course in Miracles says, “I’m never upset for the reason I think.” Why? Because a feeling or a thought related to how we want something to be, but isn’t, is the cause of the upset.
For example: I’m (really) upset because my knee is swollen and I’ve been unable to do my regular 1-hour walking routine for over a week. I’m scared because it might not get better before I leave for Mexico in a few weeks, which would make for a miserable trip. Now I feel ashamed for complaining about this minor problem. I’m fortunate to get to go to Mexico. But what if…
If untamed, the wild mind could take me on a fascinating but useless trip.
So, we’re encouraged to look deeply at our feelings and our thoughts; to give these tendencies our attention, so that we can liberate our mind from attachment to craving life to be other than it is; the flooding river, and my knee, being other than it is.
Return to the upset you identified earlier. Who or what would you be if you let go of the distress? (I know, there’s great resistance to letting go of the upset, but experiment with me, here.) How could freedom, from releasing the upset, create new opportunities for you, and someone else who might be part of the upset?
Imagine how accepting everything just the way it is, right now, might dissolve the mask obscuring true peace.
Join me for a moment and take in a deep breath. Let it go. Inhale another deep breath. Exhale. And one more time; inhale… exhale.
All is well.