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suffering is optional

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pain headBits of yesterday’s post continue to linger. The thing about my pain intrigues me. My pain, get it? I assume ownership over something that’s transient, slippery, impermanent. So much depends on my mind state: when I feel unhappy (simplistically speaking) pain and mood feed each other, then torture me. When I’m happy, pain is just one aspect of experience, merely a sensation, waxing and waning. “Suffering is optional,” writes Zen teacher Ezra Bayda–

This may be hard to accept, especially when we are addicted to our suffering. But we don’t have to suffer our suffering! We can just observe it, experience it for what it is, and let it be (p.113).

This is not passivity or pseudo-detachment. We still need the discipline to stay present, to remain still. The discipline is to choose in each moment not to spin off, to choose to be precise in our labeling and in our self-observation. … The open mind that’s willing to look at whatever arises–that wants simply to know, to be with, to reside in the reality of the moment–is always accessible to us (p.112).

source: Bayda, E. (2003). Being Zen: bringing meditation to life. Boston: Shambala. image: wittgensteinforum.wordpress…


2 responses »

  1. I think the observing of suffering… the allowing… is so easy to miss. Often, questioning my thoughts is extremely helpful (I do The Work by Byron Katie). But so often I am driving or just not in the right space to write. Allowing suffering, sitting with it, not judging it is so liberating.

    Just have to remember not to fight it!

    • My understanding is that “suffering” arises when I tack things on to a sensation . For instance, I receive some news that is not what I expected.

      I then personalize it, thinking that I deserve the bad news, that things never seem to work out for me — or, that the sender is mean, or the world a cruel place. etc. It’s this adding-on, this attaching to fixed ideas –first expectations, then fabrications — that causes suffering.

      see also: Buddha’s Four Noble Truths re attachments and cessation of suffering.


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