INSIGHT INTO SUFFERING
As I sat down to write this I was flooded by the knowledge of many lives, of the many lives we have, and the suffering inherent in that. I wept. I couldn’t hold back the tears and I wept for myself and all others who have not seen the deep insight that comes from direct knowledge of these lives and the extraordinary dimension of samsara (the cycles of life).
We struggle with life and suffering primarily because we only see the part of life we are dealing with right now, and unless we are deep in present moment awareness, that view of life is a very small part of life as a whole and yet we focus on that as being our reality.
It is like looking at the stars and saying that is the universe. The section of the night sky we are seeing is a very small portion of the whole. So we eliminate birth and death, past and future lives out of our conscious awareness and instead focus on a very small part of our life and make an assumption about reality based on that.
We are not living in consciousness of the full picture, the entire universe as it were and so our understanding mostly begins and ends with what is happening to us now.
When we are committed to truth and freedom, we use practices like meditation and the profound insights that come in the practice to embrace the whole picture.
From the deep insight of many lives to deep insight in the present moment, we see that the present moment, if we are still and silent and spacious enough, contains the full consciousness of all life, with its births and deaths, joys and sorrows, fortunes and misfortunes.
We see that wherever there is birth there is suffering.
And we also see and feel the incredible immeasurable expanse of all these births and deaths deeply in our being.
And if birth is the beginning of suffering, and we feel it deeply, then we also see the possibility to be free of suffering, by freeing ourselves from the continuing passage of births and deaths.
As we become free we open up to a deeper happiness, one free of all suffering.
When we meditate deeply, new undiscovered parts of our being reveal themselves through jhana. Jhana or states of being or subtle states of consciousness, arise when we have deep concentration on a single object like the breath or light or sound for example. We begin to learn that both suffering and happiness are deep within our being. One of the insights into these subtle states of consciousness we experience is the experience of clarity, joy and bliss that we never knew before. We realize a different kind of birth, a rebirth from within.
When we are deeply still, silent and spacious we connect to the inner space of being. When we are agitated then the ego occupies that space with thoughts. When we are still and silent then clarity and joy and bliss emerge and the signs of freedom like sound and light arise. These signs or nimitta are in recognition of the ever increasing freedom found in resting in the space of being. This awareness gives birth to everything. A new birth is experienced in that clarity, joy and bliss. This state is unforgettable, indefinable and timeless. The experience is so profound that we naturally want to inquire about where this newfound clarity, joy and bliss comes from.
How can we help our suffering? Let’s take the example of agitation when we have a myriad of thoughts about say a physical problem we have. I have that situation, with a body that is very sensitive so when I get under stress it trembles. When a person is angry around me (even if it is not at me) my body trembles from the stress of the emotions I feel from that person. In that sense I am very empathic. Meditation has been such a boon, a tremendous gift in dealing with this sensitivity. Here is how it works for me in this kind of situation where I am agitated by an angry person.
The simplest thing to do is to sit still. When we sit still we tune into what is really present in the physical experience of the moment. When I do this initially I am aware of the trembling. It is difficult to stop if my mind is agitated. So I connect with the physical experience of stillness while I breathe. Just breathing and stillness. Amazingly, even if there is an involuntary tremor or spasm in my body, with simple breathing and stillness it calms down.
Then I listen to the inner voice. The inner voice is an opportunity to find silence. If the inner voice is not so strong and the trembling is stronger then I know the stillness is what I need to be working with most in that present moment.
When I can rest in the silence and the stillness then the thinking mind is absent and I reach a space of emptiness.
So I next feel into the space of open awareness. It is like looking up into the sky at night and seeing and feeling beyond it into the vast spaciousness of the universe itself. I often begin meditations in this way, seeing and feeling beyond the room where I sit into that “memory” of the universe, which conveys the space quite naturally to my brain. I see the clear blue sky in my mind and drop the boundaries. This opens to the universe “behind” it much like when the sun goes down at the end of the day the blue sky dissolves into the night sky. I then see and feel into the universe and let go of those boundaries. The universal consciousness awakens in me, breathes in me at that point.
When the spaciousness is all around me and within me and beyond me I rest in that. Generally speaking the spacious awareness is strongest for me to feel (rather than see) and I can open to the experience of that. Spacious awareness I find dissolves all thought. There is just spaciousness. Open and aware. The true nature of mind and heart.
It is like I am walking up a mountain from a certain direction, let’s say the east, and in the moment I open the door to spacious awareness to explore it, most of my ‘thinking’ during the day (other than functional thinking in my business and family life) is spent being aware of the spaciousness. The thoughts are, how would I put it, slow to arise, so I am very aware of what thoughts arise and where they are coming from. At other times in my life I have been working with stillness, trying to be aware of movement which I would call my western door and then at other times I am very aware of the inner voice which is like the southern door. We each approach our path from the door which is closest in the present moment and most recently that door has been spacious awareness.
The breath helps or in my case awareness of the space. Try working with one focus, a mantra, the breath, focus on the third eye, awareness of the space all around you, and see how often thoughts enter. Then try a different focus and compare. Then another. Eventually you will find the right awareness for the present moment. Then go deep into that. At some point the ego and the thoughts related to that just gives up.
For example, during the waking part of my day I practice lots of Kriya Yoga, simply breathing in the inner spine whenever my awareness guides me. Easeful and very natural as I have practiced it so long. In formal sitting I practice simple techniques like raising energy up the inner spine using liquid light and joy to dwell in the third eye. Then I sit in stillness, silence and spaciousness and let go into the light and sound that arise. I empty the mind and embrace the light and bliss that manifest in every cell. Calmness and happiness. I endeavor to transfer that to every waking moment and into my sleep and dreams. Then when I breathe in my day, I breathe from that vastness. Awake. Aware. Calm. Happy.
So I am continuing to develop insight using meditation. I make an intention before the meditation such as “I want to develop insight into Dukkha, suffering” as I did this over this past week. Then I let the intention go.
My next practice is to make an intention to meditate on anicca or impermanence for the next week.
My inner felt experience is one of stillness of body, silence and spaciousness of mind and heart. Bliss arises. Light arises. Sound arises. I let go of them all and rest in calm clear light of awareness and happiness that I can bring into my everyday moments in life.
The graphs provide me with excellent feedback into the stability and consistency of that awareness.
The reason we suffer is we don’t see the whole picture, the big picture. We focus on very tiny parts of our consciousness, such as what we are anxious about, who is bothering us, why we don’t have enough money and what our future will bring.
When we meditate we let go into the silence stillness and spaciousness of the universal consciousness where we don’t hang on to the ego self with its needs and thoughts.
Just for a short time we are free in the boundless space of infinite awareness.
Just for a moment we go beyond all of this and touch the infinite nature of all that is.
Pure being. Pure bliss. Pure consciousness.
Love and Blessings